The lighting of the Christmas tree in the city is a tradition all over Norway. The community gathers to sing songs, dance around the Christmas tree and see julenisse (Santa Claus) for the first time in the season.
Not all Lighting of the Christmas Tree events around Norway are the same. Some light the city decorations at the same time, some don’t. Some have a big stage and concert, some don’t. Some have their own city Christmas song, and some don’t. And some have such big trees they have to be flown in by helicopter, and some don’t.
This was our first Lighting of the Christmas Tree in Alta. It wasn’t as grand as the ones we have been to in Tromsø, but it was perfect for Alta.
The history of a city has a lot to do with how events are celebrated. For instance, Alta developed with two main communities either side of Komsa mountain. Because of this there are two shopping districts and two close-nit communities even though the city has now grown into one big whole. Every year at Advent, the people in Bossekop gather for the Bossekop Lighting of the Christmas tree and the people in Elvebakken gather for the Elvebakken event. Over the last ten years the city centre, which is in between Bossekop and Elvebakken, has surpassed the development of the other two shopping districts, but as yet, it hasn’t brought the people together in one place for the Lighting of the Christmas Tree celebration. Old traditions die hard but I wonder if there will be a time when the city will one day meet in one place for this event.
We visited the city centre for the Lighting of the Christmas Tree. There were a good handful of people, considering how cold it was. With a short countdown the lights were turned on the tree, and around the city, followed by silent claps from the modest crowd. (It is hard to make a noise clapping when you have two pairs of woolen gloves on.) We then walked around the Christmas tree singing Norwegian Christmas songs. No dancing or holding hands together this time – the weather lately has made one big iceskating rink, a little too slippery for dancing.
It is amazing how many people you bump into at events like this. I managed to meet a fellow Aussie in one of the coldest places on earth.
After some pepperkaker and gløgg to warm up our bellies, julenisse and his helpers came to give out treats – clementines, raisins and chocolates.
The event was short and sweet which was perfect. It was minus 15 degrees celsius outside! After collecting our goodies, like everyone else, we made a dash for the shopping centre to warm up.
Alta is now officially prepped, lit and ready for the Christmas season. God jul!