by Laura T. Jensen
(Published: Chapel Hill News January 2010)
He is truly wise
Who has traveled far
And knows the ways of the world.
Viking Proverb, circa 800-1000 AD
The sky is a clear blue, the yellow ball hanging there sparkles, like clusters of diamonds, off the snow collected on every tree branch. On legs wobbling with fatigue from a morning spent on ice skates, we snowshoe across a meadow for our first neighborly visit. The air crackles and is so cold my teeth hurt. Friendly doors are opened and we are welcomed with cakes and coffee. There is chatter, hugs and food everywhere we stop.
Hours later, back home we drink Aquavit; the bottle plucked from a snowdrift. The small-stemmed glasses prevent our fingers from warming the liquor. The table groans with food; my stomach growls. We eat cod, potatoes and cabbage. Gathered around a warming fire, we ignore the howling wind and Skål again. This Aquavit is after all, “the water of life.”
Tradition dictates that someone tells a story. We all embellish and laughter bubbles. I speak little Norwegian but it doesn’t seem to matter. I am gathered into the fold.
The tradition of commemorating Winter Solstice continues in many lands to this day. No more heartily than in Norway where a celebration to give thanks (for the coming of spring) with merriment is the norm. Here the dark days are long but tomorrow the days will begin to get longer, and that is what everyone is celebrating. And, why not? At the Summer Solstice it will be light for almost twenty-four hours.
I am in the land of my forefathers to experience this ancient tradition and I am not disappointed.