The new year has been seen in, ‘twelfth night’ (the day after the twelfth night of Christmas, a public holiday here) has been and gone. Kiruna has emptied of ‘homecomers’ who arrived to join their families at Christmas. People have gone back to work after the long break – or if they haven’t, they will tomorrow.
And yet it’s still Christmas. It lingers unfashionably here. Officially until the 13th, ‘Knut’s day’. By tradition on that day Knut chases out all the spirits lurking in corners, spirits that are no longer useful to us. Knut’s not the soft cuddly figure that brought the season in – he’s sharp and energetic, and he urges us to hurl our Christmas trees out of the window. This tradition became a hazard when people began to live more in flats, so now it’s acceptable to bring the trees out the door.
Poor tree, I didn’t much like it this year – it’s a misshapen, bare specimen, bought in desperation ‘off the back of a lorry’ – but it’s become a friend. Every time we threaten it with removal it perks up and refuses to drop any more needles.
Daylight returned on twelfth night but it’s still dark most of the day, still midwinter. Temperatures have risen to a comfortable minus 10 (after minus 37 degrees in the last week) and soft, gentle flakes are falling from a dark sky. Coloured strings of lights outside are buried deep in the snow and glimmer blue and pink through white layers of flakes. It feels as if we get a bonus week of Christmas here, after the rush is over.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and there’s no traffic. Snowflakes settle and out of the window and nothing seems to move. It’s calm and we can take the time to appreciate the season. I listen to some music, light a candle, look at the tree. Others may be keen to move on but it’s still three days before the spirit of Knut takes over and I’m in no hurry.