By SRO Kjell Michelsen

In Båtsfjord, my hometown, the sun went down behind the mountains to the south for the final time a few days ago, and it won’t return until Feb. 2nd next year. The dark season, especially in Northern Norway is unique. Yes it’s dark, but not the same darkness you see in the fall. This time of year, there’s usually a few inches of snow on the ground, and it actually helps to “lighten” up the day a little.

Norwegians also love to decorate inside and out with lights during this time. The shops will string up lights across the street, storefront windows will be decorated for the season and on the first Sunday of Advent, all homes will have a shining star hanging in one window, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem.

During my years growing up in Båtsfjord, going to school, we never had a snow day. One reason for this was that we did not have school buses. Students would either walk, ski or use a kicksled to get themselves to school. So even during bad weather, cold and drifting snow, we would just dress up and head out the door.

There was one time we had a hurricane force blizzard that came in during a school day, and it was decided for safety reasons to keep all students, elementary, middle and junior high at school overnight. It was like a gigantic sleepover; we had fun, but some teachers might still go to mental counseling after that experience.

Like here in Erwin, Båtsfjord had one movie theatre. One day a week, they had a movie for kids showing and it was always exciting to go to one of the three stores that had the movie posters up to see what film would be shown. Back then, Flash Gordon and Tarzan movies were the big draws. We would line up outside the theatre often a whole hour before they even opened the doors so one could have a chance to get first pick at the best seats. Usually, after the movie, we would walk back to our neighborhoods and play-act what we had seen in the film. My Dad, who had his own carpentry business, was our local weapon merchant. He would cut out wooden pistols and rifles that we would use in our re-enactments.

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving, the one and only genuine American holiday. When I moved to the United States back in 1996, this was a brand new thing for me and a little strange at first; “Turkey, Football and Shopping.” But as years have passed it has turned into being my favorite holiday.

We live in a very divisive time, and sometimes it can be easy to lose track of what truly matters, what we should be thankful for. To embrace our families and close friends, things that we are blessed with, that are bestowed upon us from our creator, the essence of freedom and liberty. God Bless these United States, my adopted homeland, who has given me so much. Until next time, be safe, be happy and be thankful.