Thursday, 22 December 2016

Land of the midday night

One of the things I would love to see, but probably never will, is the midnight sun. If I were to travel North to somewhere like Tromsø in Norway around the middle of June, I could stand on the elegant bridge across the Tromsøysundet Strait and watch the sun set over the water, then around midnight it would hover briefly just above the horizon before ascending once again to start the new day.
Of course what goes up must come down, and every year around Christmas time, the sun never quite manages to rise as far as the horizon. The sky begins to lighten around midday but then darkens once more and falls back into night. In Tromsø it requires a special kind of courage and endurance to keep your spirits as Winter approaches. The days get shorter, darker and colder and then disappear altogether into perpetual night. You need to stay strong to survive, but each year some inhabitants find they no longer have that strength; that is why there is a tall fence along the Tromsø bridge.
That is also why all over the world above the Tropic of Cancer, around the middle of December, there are festivals of light: Christmas, Saturnalia, St Nicholas Day, Saint Lucia, Hanukkah, Yule. We need the reassurance of good company, laughter, food, bright colours and light. Some authorities call it a superstitious attempt to rekindle the sun, but that is just a metaphor. We are really keeping the light alive in us.
Spare a thought for those who are alone this Christmas, those whose light has been taken away, whose loved one has died, those who find no joy in the tinsel and glitter. For some, Christmas simply adds insult to injury.
For the twelve days of Christmas the year holds its breath, the days refuse to lengthen, but gradually at first, then faster and faster as we move towards Spring, the light returns. For us too, in our lives, like a miracle out of nowhere, after sorrow, we find peace. May the spirit of peace bring light into your life this Christmas.

Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun's love,
In the spring becomes the rose

The Rose, Amanda McBroom