Merry Christmas

The holiday season continues in full swing here in Petersburg with more concerts, a holiday fun run, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and wonderful hospitality from new friends.  We were walking down the street after working out at the community center the other day when we were gently herded into the home of new friends Grant and Lila for some conversation and some fresh-from-the-oven Norwegian kringle.20141219 3980 norwegian kringle rThe kindness and warmth of the people we’re meeting here is remarkable, and we’re enjoying learning more about the area and about the culture.

Petersburg really lives up to its nickname of “Little Norway” at the holidays, with the tradition of Julebukking taking center stage this week.  Julebukking is an old Norwegian tradition that was originally pagan in origin, but was later adapted by the Christians.  In its purest form it’s a little like Halloween at Christmas where people would dress up in costume and visit their neighbors, and the neighbors had to try and guess who they were.  Food and drink featured prominently.  It’s a variation on the idea of a holiday open house, and here in Petersburg it’s practiced by the various businesses around town (and you don’t have to dress up in a costume!).  There are so many local businesses hosting Julebukking that the paper had to publish a schedule of which places are hosting on which days, culminating with 10 different places today.  We finally came home early today – utterly Julebukked-out – but it has been a great way to get to know people in town and we’ve had a ball.  The holiday feeling here is old-fashioned – festive and happy.  People greet each other on the street and hearty wishes of “Merry Christmas!” are everywhere – between friends and strangers alike.

The best of the Julebukking was today at the hardware store where they had a nice spread of noshes, punch, and the feature:  “Moose Milk”.  “Moose Milk” starts with this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo which you add some liquor named “White Christmas”…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then you put it into the paint shaker…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd when it’s sufficiently shaken (not stirred), you pour it into an elegant bowl, and serve it with a dash of nutmeg on top!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMonday night was a Community Concert where 16 different groups or individuals played a musical instrument and/or sang holiday songs.  To see that many people offer to share their time and talents was heartwarming enough, and most of the performances were extremely good.  Our favorite was a duet by Lila and Grant singing an old Norwegian carol, along with the story of how they learned the song and met as youngsters in Minnesota.

Saturday was our day for the Christmas bird count for the Audubon Society, and I joined a valiant group of volunteers on a cold, rainy, windy day – not the best for seeing a lot of birds.  The scoters are plentiful in the harbor and we’re starting to see some long-tailed ducks, and I’ve been assured that many more are on their way here for the winter soon.20141212 3924 oldsquaw 5 rI was on a little team with a local bird expert currently working on her PhD and a retired Alaska State wildlife biologist – which was fantastic.  We counted the trumpeter swans, buffleheads, mergansers, loons, pine siskins, etc. I got a nice tour of some good hiking and bird watching spots on the island and I learned a lot from them both – well worth enduring the cold wet weather!

We heard our names on the local radio station ( today announcing that we won the Christmas Light Contest in the “boat” category.  There was only one other entry in our category, but a win is still a win!  Jim gets all the credit – he’s the one who does such a nice job putting lights all around the boat and a big red ribbon on the bow.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas, or as the Norwegians say “God Jul”!20141217 3956 petersburg christmas tree r

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year and the first official day of winter.  Here in Petersburg the sun will rise in a little while at 8:29 and it will set at 3:13 this afternoon.  It feels odd to see the daylight end so early in the day – we keep feeling like it’s time to start fixing dinner when it gets dark and we have to look at the clock for cues about where we are through the day, but all the Christmas lights around town make the dark hours look sparkly and pretty.

The good news is that starting tomorrow the days will get longer by a noticeable amount – 5-7 minutes per day until the days are crazy-long once again.  The bad news is that the holidays will be over in a couple of weeks and many of the pretty lights will be put away until next year.

This is the second installment of “Life in a Small Alaskan Fishing Town”, and today’s post continues with Santa arriving by helicopter at the Community Center children’s party last Saturday.  He needed a little extra help getting out of the helicopter and he was walking with a cane – apparently he tripped over an elf recently, but he assured us that he’s on the mend and he’ll be in good shape for The Big Day!santa by helicopterLast weekend was also the bi-annual presentation of the Nutcracker by the Mitkof Dancers (Mitkof is the name of the island we live on).  The Nutcracker was put on by 140 dancers from town, including 30 boys, and the ages ranged from 3 to early 20’s, plus one middle aged gentleman who danced Herr Drosselmeyer.  It was OUTSTANDING!  The costumes were excellent – elaborate, creative, and they fit each child perfectly.  The sets were lovely, and the dancing was very good – at least a dozen dancers were in toe shoes.  We were completely blown away by the entire production, and it was a grand way to mark the holiday season.  My favorites were the little ones.  The snowflakes were 3 years old…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd these little sugar plum fairies were only a little older…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we had “little Chinese tea”…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was plenty of serious dancing and it was very good – the Rat Queen was particularly talented, yet they still found ways to include the younger dancers.nutcracker dancersThese tiny gingerbread gals melted our hearts, and one girl was like a deer in the headlights just standing still.  Her friend’s attempts to get her back into the dance had us crying, laughing so hard.gingerbread dancersOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery performance was sold out and the crowd was packed with more than just the parents of the dancers.  Punch and Norwegian cookies were served in the lobby afterwards, and we left feeling uplifted, festive, and happy.

Next up:  Julebukking.  Stay tuned!