I'm having a lot of trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year. I'm really working at coming out of this grand funk, but unfortunately I think it's a long way to the light at the end of the tunnel. But I'm working on it. I guess that's all I can ask, right?
As I was laying awake during the middle of the night last night I was pondering many things, remembering interesting moments in my life and my thoughts turned to the Christmases we spent living in Iceland.
Christmases of 1969 and 1970 were spent in Iceland in a town called Keflavik, located on the far southwestern peninsula of the country, just outside the gates of the NATO Base that's located there. We were 30 miles from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and between the two cities ran the only paved road in the entire country. All the other roads were surfaced with ash from volcanoes. Iceland is extremely volcanic, and had two "pop their tops" in the short time we were there. To my knowledge there have been about a half dozen erruptions within the last 20 years - kind of scary, but extremely impressive.
One of the things difficult to get used to in Iceland was the fact that there were NO trees. That meant no Christmas trees either. So all the Christmas trees had to be ordered in June for shipment into the country in November. Thanksgiving came, the trees arrived and Ole went to pick up our little four footer. Understandably, it was so dry by this point it went snap, crackle, pop and every time it was touched about a thousand needles fell off - and we hadn't even set it up yet. We soaked it in water and did everything else we thought would help, but the poor little tree was so far gone by this time it was hopeless. BUT - we had no more to pick from as all the trees were spoken for so we had to make do with what we had. Now being a fairly new bride and new to the country, I of course wanted Christmas to be "perfect." Ole was one of the few enlisted men who had his wife in-country - most of the guys his rank were there alone and not able to go home for the holidays, so we invited a number of them to our house to spend Christmas.
The morning of Christmas Eve I was busy cleaning in preparation for our company, when I bumped the tree stand with the vacuum cleaner. That was the last straw for that little tree. It was already pretty bare but this bump knocked every last needle off. I had a Charlie Brown tree with glass balls and lights. NOW what was I to do. Our tree was bare, we had company coming that I wanted to have a nice Christmas for, and there was not another real tree to be had in the entire country. I made a tearful phonecall to Ole at work and he advised me to run downtown and check on the artificial trees we had seen in the hardware store window. At this point there were three left in the window, one all white, one aluminum and one beautiful green, ferny, lacy one about 5 feet tall that cost $40. It was made in Denmark and was gorgeous. Now mind you, at this point we didn't have a pot to pee in financially, and we certainly could not afford $40 for an artificial tree, but I just knew if I brought home the silver one or the white one I could just as well pack my bags and fly back home. Ole would never stand for that - it was quite an accomplishment just for him to allow an artificial tree at all!! But home it went - I would deal with his wrath later.
By the time he got home I had the tree set up and decorated and even he had to admit it was wonderful - until he found out how much it cost. BUT - we used that tree until 1999 when we donated it to Lovely Daughter and her husband and the tree moved to Quantico, VA and celebrated Christmas with them for several years. We purchased the tree in 1969 and finally retired it to the thrift store in the year 2001, so if you pro-rate it out, we certainly got our money's worth, don't you think? Maybe we should have kept it just for nostalgic purposes.
The Icelandics are very big on Christmas. Because of the island's global position, days are very short, and by Christmas time there's only about four hours of daylight, but the Northern Lights are spectacular. The long hours of darkness probably explain why the Icelandics are so big into lighting at Christmastime. EVERYTHING is lit up - even the cemeteries. Their houses have beautiful displays and every apartment balcony has lights strung in various configurations. And what you DON'T see (or didn't at the time we were there) were the garish displays of blow up santas and snowmen and moving things all over everyone's yard and rooftop, etc. Things always seemed to be tastefully done.
Reykjavik is situated along a fjord. As you enter the city in the darkness, coming over the mountain overlooking this city of 100,000 people spread along the ocean, it's quite a fabulous sight. All of the fishing boats and trawlers and large ocean-going vessels are lit with Christmas lights, and it almost makes your heart stop.
All over the countryside and on the edges of the city and the towns the Icelandics build huge bonfires that are burned on a nightly basis between Christmas and New Years, with the biggest set on New Year's Eve, along with huge displays of fireworks.
One way to keep your children in line in Iceland is to tell them about all the trolls that live in the countryside. Santa Claus doesn't have elves for helpers in Iceland - the local trolls watch you all year long to make sure you're being good. And if you could see the rough terrain of the countryside - all huge rocks in weird shapes and forms - and imagine driving those roads at night with headlights flashing - you soon can imagine you truly see trolls dashing from one rock to another, "watching" you. Especially if you've had a drop or two of aquavit!!
What are YOUR most fond memories of Christmas?