Friday, January 01, 1999 6:20 PM
Having commented on the snow, it promptly started to rain, and the snow melted. Further evidence for the Atli theory of the weather.
One of the volcanoes in the north erupted in some sense. Really, it was only blowing off some steam. Quite a lot of steam at that, the plume being about 20 kilometres high. People from Germany chartered flights to have a look. Icelanders hardly noticed. It made the news, but lacked the breathless enthusiasm that might be found in commentators from other countries.
It rained up to Christmas eve. And thus it looked like it was going to be a wet Christmas, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, shops did a great business selling sackcloth, and ash was in abundance. But those who wanted a white Christmas had faith and prayed to the mighty deity of white slush. And lo! the faithful were rewarded and that deity did deliver a glorious bounty during the following day. It fell as manna from heaven and covered all from head to foot. There was much dancing and merriment and those who had not believed were converted. Then the two calves without defects were slaughtered and all was well. The car of the Evil One was bogged so He stayed at home and harvested no souls that day. It's illegal to work in this country on Christmas Day anyway. And it continued to snow throughout the day and into the night, long after the faithful had decided it was too cold to stay outside and the non-believers had started grumbling that the faithful should have been more specific about how much snow they wanted. And so the day ended. The next day it rained again, and the snow washed away.
Another Icelandic joke:
Q. What should you do if you're lost in a forest in Iceland?
A. Stand up.
The celebration of Christmas and New Year are probably the only two things that Icelanders do, not only not late, but *early*! They exchange gifts on the night of the 24th of December, which requires buying them no later than the 23rd. True to form, though, the buying of gifts is left until the last possible moment - the night of the 23rd. I went for a walk that night, and got caught in the stampede. It was so tight that there was no danger of being trampled, simply because there was no way to fall, but also no control over the direction. When crowds met from differing directions, there was total chaos... and seemingly no further movement for several minutes. Presumably, the larger of the two crowds assimilated the smaller, then movement resumed. I think that everyone in Reykjavík was out that night. At least the weather was fine. Strangely, though, no-one seemed to be buying anything, probably owing to the enormous difficulty of moving from within the crowd to without.
New Year's Eve is celebrated with fireworks, but some eager people couldn't wait and fireworks could be heard throughout the preceeding week. The fireworks continued throughout the evening, until 10:30pm, at which point they stopped suddenly for an hour. The reason for this is the program on television that no-one admits to liking, no-one admits to watching, and everyone talks about afterwards.
Shortly after the program ended, the fireworks resumed, and the sky was lit with coloured lights, thick with smoke and the smell of gunpowder, and filled with the sound of squeals and explosions. However, this was merely a prelude to the display when midnight arrived - the sheer number of fireworks from all over Reykjavík was truly spectacular.
Reykjavík is not so small that it is sufficient to look "up" and really enjoy the scene, so I found the highest place that I could reach by foot, and stood there watching for two hours. Of course, to appreciate the sight fully would require being able to see in 360 degrees at once, something which is, unfortunately for me, beyond my abilities. The power of some of the fireworks was amazing, though, the shockwave able to be felt from hundreds of metres away, so one could "feel" a firework without being able to see it.
As the fireworks ran out, and the only sound that remained was the siren of the fire brigade attending to accidents, the temperature dropped to -4°C and the wind returned. It was time for most of us to go home. Those that remained were the ones who wanted to send up the last firework, a competition which continued for several hours. At 6am, there was an almighty explosion, probably the final word.
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