Our last guests for a few days had just left, and we’d gone out of town for a Christmas Market experience.

Last year at this time of year we’d headed out to a nearby village for the market, thinking it would be more ‘mysig’ (that’s sort of cosy, but more so) than one in town. It was minus 17 when we left, and as is often the case it got colder as we drove down the hill. It was minus 38 when we arrived to discover they’d cancelled the market, because of the cold. It was memorable though.

This year it was only minus four when we left, and a very reasonable minus eight when we arrived. We were pleased that on a second attempt we’d finally made it. We pushed our way through the old wooden door into the small rooms of this preserved old house. There were some handicrafts for sale, but it seemed this market was mainly an opportunity to eat cake (see my previous post, ‘Let them eat cake’). I must say we were a bit disappointed. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but after two years of build-up coming to this particular Christmas Market, we were thinking of something more exciting than a pair of knitted socks and a piece of cake. We didn’t even find any homemade saffron buns to buy, which are always on the list at this time of year (as I’m rather partial to saffron and homemade means plenty of it). And while I’m delighted not to be subjected to endless rounds of Bing Crosby singing ‘White Christmas’, in my opinion this occasion lacked a bit of yuletide atmosphere. There were plenty more Christmas Markets in Kiruna today, so we headed back to town.

We found another one, at a local school. We immediately found saffron buns to buy, so I was happy. There wasn’t a lot else though. More opportunities to drink and eat cake and sausages. Rolf had a sausage, and we warmed ourselves by the fire. I thought we were standing in front of some kind of giant school stage set, until I realised it wasn’t a theatrical backdrop at all, but a real burned down building with a jagged edged side wall, a collapsed front porch and no roof. It had been hit by lightning a few months ago. A timely reminder that there’s more to life than Christmas Markets.

We decided to give the third Christmas Market a miss. We walked back to the car and on the way there we noticed an amazingly full, bright moon hanging low in the sky. Getting in the car and driving up a bit higher we found ourselves looking out over the street lights of Kiruna, and the broad pink face of the moon smiling benignly down at the town.

Two hours earlier we’d been looking at another face – the top half of a round orange face – the sun, just rolling slightly above the horizon like a humped whale and then sinking down below it again.

It’s the time of year we lose the sun. In a few more days it will be gone for weeks – but there are compensations. The moon hung like a giant pink bauble in the sky. We couldn’t take our eyes off it.

Then someone threw a wide green ribbon across the blackness above. The ribbon flickered and wriggled across the sky, and then spread, becoming wider, sweeping over the buildings behind us. Threads of mauve and green dropped down towards the moon and moved to the side of it, waving small curtains over the town as if it was all some kind of giant stage.

When the show was over we went home. An hour or so later the sky over our garden was full of leaping green ribbons too. There’d been no ‘aurora alert’ today. As often happens, when visitors come here wanting to see the northern lights, they hide, but when no-one is looking, they appear. They’d crept up on us when we’d been focussing on Christmas Markets. You can’t help feeling they have human characteristics – they’re proud, independent, unpredictable, mysterious.

And yes, just a tiny bit sneaky.

(Photo below: The northern lights over 68 degrees bed and breakfast…..)