Friday, the 5th of December, Christmas countdown is running. Today we will light the Christmas tree. There is an icy wind and the cold creeps into the tiny gaps between your clothes. But the shivering is pushed away by the warmth that is brought into our veins, with the hot Gløgg. With rosy cheeks, due to cold or wine, we are staring at our tree. About one meter, a little bit thin, it is swaging on a huge iceberg, broken of our Kongsfjord glaciers. It is the king of the day. We would have preferred to use one of his cousins, taller, with a better shape, but we are running a bit short on trees in Svalbard. Also we are excited to see it ablaze with light. However, we are waiting for our last guest, Rudolf, the Santa Claus reindeer!
The crowd (yes in Ny-Ålesund 25 persons can be considered as a crowd!) is impatient and thinks about waiting inside. But suddenly a mooing echo is heard. Far away two spotlight shine and move heavily towards us. Rudolf is coming; somehow restive, he is pulled by a wheel loader. Then the lights of the Christmas tree start to shine. The coupling stop front of us and we discovered stunned and amused, the reindeer. Under his raucous sneeze, his antlers shake. If his eyes look alert, he is shivering so much that the mechanic runs everywhere around him to keep him going. Yes, because we have a modern Rudolf. Below the antlers and this red color a steaming and coughing bulldozer is hidden. Rusty to the core, modern doesn’t really mean brand new. This machine belonged to Jean Corbel, a French glaciologist during the 60’s and was used to build the scientific station Corbel, just outside Ny-Ålesund. Since these years it was abandoned, except for once a year around Christmas.
We are welcomed to jump onto the sledge which is attached to Rudolf. Everybody piles up inside and our modern reindeer hits the ground with his track, first gear pass with a high pitched squeal. The animal bellows, the engine falls into its cycle, a black steam escapes, and finally the beast shakes. The sledge takes off and we fly on the frozen ground for a city tour. Followed by sparkling stars and a noise from hell we are drawn into the magic of Christmas.
Now the festive days lie just ahead of us and the activities are slowly decreasing. Decoration of the dining hall, baking of Christmas cookies and Gingerbread houses – the people of Ny-Ålesund are in Christmas mood. We wish all of a Merry Christmas!
God Jul og godt nytt år!