“Never fully awake and already tired”
Letter from Spitsbergen! Janna Einöder experiences the dark season in Longyearbyen.
Dec 15, 2015
It started on October 26: The last sunset officially heralded the beginning of the dark season. For the people in Longyearbyen that means 24 hours of darkness for the next four months until the end of February when the sun will slowly edge itself over the horizon again. For us the dark season mainly means tons of coffee and an indescribable mix of never feeling really awake and being tired again. Waking up in the morning in complete darkness is extremely disconcerting – without a clock, I would never have any idea of what time it is. Besides the darkness, many fierce winter storms make you re-consider at least three times whether you really want to dare going out to the university.
Yet, besides the never-ending list of deadlines and exams that have to be passed in spite of a lack of sleep and extremely cold weather, Spitsbergen has numerous things to offer that make the dark season bearable. For example, the incredible Northern Lights, the Aurora borealis, that stretch across the sky like shimmering colored ribbons lighting up the night.
Or the countless stars in the sky – on clear days you can even see the Milky Way from the mountains. Fantastically beautiful! And the dark season actually brings people closer together. The many evenings of shared films, knitting, and cooking together have been fun for everyone.
Christmas Atmosphere in Longyearbyen
In late November we students were then finally able to experience a little Norwegian culture. On the first Sunday of Advent, all the lights in the city were turned off for a few hours in the afternoon for the traditional start of the holiday season. A procession with torches went from the end of the city to the central square, the torget, where a Christmas tree had been installed. (It was the only tree in Longyearbyen!)
Free gløgg was distributed on the square, and a brass band played Christmas carols. After a countdown, the tree was lit, and the lights in the city were turned back on. Then everyone went up to the tree, joined hands, and danced around the Christmas tree. A beautiful tradition that makes you look forward to Christmas!