My story of New Years Eve actually begins on December 30th.
My friend Sue and I were sitting at the dining room table, trying to figure out how to begin our recently acquired Hardanger embroidery kits. They came with fabric, thread, and charted pattern, and a brief explanation (mostly pictorial) of the necessary stitches, but no novice “how-to” information. Thanks goodness for iPads and online help sites.
The doorbell rang, and I went to answer it. I wasn’t expecting anyone – I could hear young voices through the door.
On the step were three children – the youngest about 3, maybe. They wore Santa hats, and their cheeks were painted with circles of red. Each held a felt Christmas stocking. They immediately began singing a Norwegian Christmas song – a fairly long one too. That gave my startled mind lots of time to think “I should give them candy for this – do I have anything in the house? Cookies maybe?”
Sue came with her phone and took a photo of them on the step. I remembered the gold foil-covered chocolates in my husband’s Christmas stocking (sorry Dear, but you are still in Russia).
We gave them the candy and many thanks, and away they went, leaving us to wonder at this unexpected treat. I remembered reading about the old custom of Julebokking (or Julebukking), where between Christmas and New Year’s, young people would dress in costumes, including one dressed as the Julebok, or Christmas goat. They visited neighbours, singing songs and doing pantomimes, and then were rewarded with food and drink. Usually, one or more of the visited would accompany the group on to the next house. The tradition has pretty well died out now, except for children, for whom it is kind of like our Halloween.
Fast forward to December 31. It was a dismal, rainy day, not the kind that made us want to traipse downtown or into Stavanger in the hopes of seeing some fireworks. Again, we sat at the table, delighted in the progress we were making in understanding our new Norwegian embroidery projects. About 7 pm, it sounded like shots outside in the distance. Fireworks! I knew that over New Year’s, it is legal to purchase them. Pretty soon, we were running from window to window, seeing flashes of colour through the trees and over the rooftops. Problem for Snoopy, as he is terrified of loud noises that sound like shots. It was going to be a very short evening walk for him.
This is great, we thought. We can celebrate in the comfort and warmth of home. Jone, my neighbour, shot off a few on the street in front, and we just happened to be at the right window to see them well.
About 11 pm we went outside for a look-see around, and met Jone. He said that he still had lots left for midnight, so we promised to be out to watch. I wasn’t really prepared to take photos of the display, and don’t know my new camera very well, so it’s tendency to do a multi-exposure hand-held night shot was a bit annoying, but in the dark, I couldn’t set it better, and was not going in and miss even a moment of the show. I got some rather unusual photos, but ones I would never have planned.23:50 December 31 – the sound began. We threw on our jackets and headed out into the street. Bright flares erupted right in front of us – actually right over our heads. To our left and right – all around us blazes of colour lightened the darkness. We laughed. Neither of us had ever been right in the middle of a fireworks display before, and that’s what it felt like. Jone sent some bright ones up from the lower garden; more flew up from across the park. The spectacle lasted for over half an hour – totally unplanned and unofficial. Just a bunch of crazy Norwegians taking advantage of a chance to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Jone came over to us with glasses of champagne. We went over and wished hims wife and visitors a Happy New Years, and watched their son send off his first firecrackers. At age 12, he was finally deemed old enough to have a few tiny ones of his own.
All we could say when it was over was “wow, wow, wow!” And giggle.
Not much for photos of this grand New Year’s celebration, but memories to last a life time.
Thank you, Norway. You sure do know how to celebrate!