Astronomers will tell you that the sun is coming back to Longyearbyen on 16 February, and this is indeed the first day it is coming back above the horizon again. But as the settlement is surrounded by mountains, the sun will not come back to Longyearbyen before 08 March. No doubt this is good reason to celebrate, as people didn’t get any sunlight for 4 months – well, most will have been somewhere south on holiday, but locally, at least. Everybody is looking forward to the return of the sun, and this is celebrated with a week of events, the solfestuke (sun celebration week).
Part of it is the solfestrevue, a stage event traditionally held in Huset and not in the more recent, modern and centrally located Kulturhuset (culture house). Many events of the last 12 months are passing by again, although quite detailed knowledge of local events and gossip (and Norwegian language) is certainly helpful to get the message in many cases. From Store Norske, which is faced with the phaseout of large parts of its activities in the 100th year of its existence, so maybe the future will see this very traditional company coming back as Store Torske, venturing on new paths in the fishing business? To local politics and politicians, some of whom are amazingly flexible in their opinions over time as anywhere else in the world, to local Svalbardians who occasionally come up with amazing ideas, such as testing important snow mobile routes in town by car (no, it does not work).
Following a nice tradition, Svalbard Kirke invited to an open air church survice on Hiorthfjellet, confidently as always held by Sokneprest Leif Magne Helgesen. No surprise he was elected as Svalbardian of the year. Add the magnificent surroundings and glorious weather to the service (a true Leif show!), and you have got something not to be missed.
The highlight was of course the actual solfest (sun celebration) on 08 March. Not the least due to the great weather. This date has often been cloudy in recent history, and so were the last couple of weeks. A sun celebration without sun is a bit like a wedding without a bride.
Gallery Sun celebration – 08 March 2016
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
Today, it was to be different. Not the slightest cloud on the sky! Several hundred people, including many children decorated with yellow scarves with the shape of sun rays, had gathered around the stairs of the former hospital (pre WWII, nothing but the stairs are left) near the church, as this is the first part of town to which the sun returns. The children are cheering to the sun: sol, sol, kom igjen! Sola er min beste venn! (Sun, sun, come back! The sun is my best friend! Admittedly, rhyme and rhythm do work much better in Norwegian). There are songs, there is some talking, there is good vibes in the air, lots of it. And then, there is the sun. A moving moment when the light is turned on above Larsbreen and the sun rays are falling on the crowd, warming faces and hearts, cheerfully welcomed by everybody. Some more songs, then people are going there way. The dark time is over for this winter.