Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun …

Nobody said it better than The Beatles. The sun, so common to most of us that we never consider its presence. But imagine: several months in “total darkness”, a seemingly never-ending night, only accompanied by snow, ice and arctic winds. And then, when the sun finally appears, the time for celebration has come. Or as the Longyearbyen people call: Solfestuka.

Solfestuka is a tradition where they celebrate the return of the sun. Every year, in the week of 8th March they organise exhibitions, musical performances (this year there was Taliban Airways, Dumdum Boys …), special activities for children, a solquiz and solgames. Climaxing with the actual welcoming of the sun around the 8th of March. After months of darkness and polar night the sun chases away the winterblues, bringing new life and joy. From now on days grow longer until the midnight sun appears.

That Saturday, we joined the people of Longyearbyen at the old hospitalsteps next to the church in the old part of Longyearbyen. (The original hospital was torn down so they reconstructed these stairs and they now serve as a “stage”.)The old hospital stairs

The welcoming-ritual was hosted by a young woman (maybe a teacher) and a boy. During the ceremony a woman in tradional clothing told us about the Svalbard tradition and the meaning of Solfestuka. A local children’s choir livened up the presentation with sun-related songs and they presented the award to the winner of the “Soltegninger”. This Soltegninger is the winning drawing from a competition where children get to design the offical festival logo. Quite important and a bit intimidating when you’re called forward, surrounded by locals and tourists armed with cameras :).

When all was said and done and we neared the end of the ceremony, only one thing remained: let’s welcome the sun! 10, 9, 8, 7 … 1 and right on cue the sun broke through the clouds and greeted us. Magic … :). To stay in the mood, everyone got a “Solbun” or sun-bun at the end of the ceremony.
In the afternoon, there were the Solgames: it was announced as a ‘pleasant day activity for children and adults’. While we had sun at noon during the ceremony, the Solgames were held during a heavy snowfall. It felt like the weather gods were mocking us. During these games, children and adults (but mostly the youngsters from town) can show their tricks in sledding, ski and snowboard. The whole game-activity was brightened up with a giant barbecue and folklore.

Was if fun? Yes! We love attending such events while traveling. They tell us more about the local culture and the inhabitants. And never once did we feel like tourists, as we were welcomed with open arms and we were part of the celebration.

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