Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Year's Eve; A Chilly Story

We try to vary our New Year's Eve trips between cold and warm weather locations. Some wonder aloud to us why we would want to hang out in the dark and freezing cold, why we wouldn't always want to be on a warm tropical beach. But honestly, it is fun to get all bundled up! And the snow and the cold add a certain light, a certain serenity to places. Now a beach ain't a bad situation either!

For New Year's Eve 2013 six of us were in a log cabin in the tiny town of Äkäslompolo, Finland. This is an area in Lapland 110 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The town boarders a lake by the same name. Here it is, the red dot on the map, you can see that it is about as north as you can get before you fall into the Barents Sea. So yeah, it was cold. And beautiful.

The morning of New Year's Eve we were all picked up by bus and taken about an hour north to a reindeer farm. I don't think too many people have typed that sentence before! The family who owns the farm has had it and their herd for many years, and makes their living off of all things reindeer. This was no tourist show, although they host many, even the traditional Sami dress is something they still wear. We booked our tour through Destination Lapland

We started the day with a sled ride, ours pulled by Rocky, and each couple got their own sled. The reindeer were harnessed together with one being the lead so there was no need to drive or do anything except for enjoy the ride. As they got to running, Matt & Vio's reindeer who was behind us, tried to pass! We were all laughing and having a great time!

When we finished our ride we were invited into the owners' home for lunch. There was homemade reindeer soup (don't be the slow sled puller!), fresh baked bread, and blueberry juice. The owner told me she also grows her own vegetables for the soup. It was all absolutely delicious. 

After our lunch it was our turn to feed the reindeer. They eat dried moss and the farm owners buy it in bulk. They get pretty excited when those bags of moss come out!

With both people and reindeer being fed, we gathered around a toasty fire, the logs covered with pelts, and were offered coffee and cookies. They passed around some horns so everyone could feel how heavy there are and then taught everyone how to throw a lasso, practicing around some mounted horns. There was a traditional teepee to check out and also a little museum they had put together of their family history and artifacts of the Sami culture. It was all so interesting, cool, and fun!

Once we got home Forest and I walked (with sleds) to the grocery store and returned to make a nice dinner for everyone. We stared with some lovely foie gras that Forest & Thibault had brought from France, as well as some patė, and elk sausage we had bought in Estonia. And cocktails of course! Then we cooked a nice baked salmon dinner with roasted potatoes, cucumbers in yogurt, and green salad.

After dinner we all walked down to the frozen lake, armed with champagne bottles and flasks. The streetlights were turned off and luminaries were lit and lining the snowy sidewalks. We gathered with the rest of the town and lined up to purchase paper lanterns. At midnight everyone lit and released their lanterns, and we all took our turn setting ours upward. 

We watched as the lanterns floated peacefully up into the sky, little lights twinkling (mine crashed and burned in a tree!), drank our champagne, and then walked home through the snowy night.

Photos here

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