Bergen Lystfest – The Tree Lighting Festival

As I’ve mentioned, Christmas and the holiday season is a big deal here in Norway. The Christmas spirit can be felt everywhere you go. All across the city, trees are draped in lights. From the displays in store windows, to the gingerbread cookies lining the grocery store aisles, the season is in full effect.

The city hosts a lighting of the Christmas tree every year to kick start the Christmas season and this year was no different. Sharing the experience with four of my floor mates made the events incredibly special for me. The night was about learning Norwegian traditions and reminding myself to make intentional choices to give me a more fulfilling experience here.

Let’s just start with how cold it was. It was easily 38 degrees Fahrenheit when I went out to meet Kristin and Angelica at the bybannen. I was incredibly cold to say the least. We took bybannen into the city, but since the festival was in full swing, the line ended earlier than usual, meaning we had to take a short walk to reach the tree. As we walked through the streets and passed the Bergen Storecenter, I could see hundreds of people beginning to converge at the tree located at the head of Lille Lungegaardsvannet. When we got closer, the reflection on the water showed the thousands of twinkling lights wrapped around the trees. We pushed through the crowed to get a front and center view of both the tree and stage.

The evening was full of performances, the tree lighting itself, fireworks, and delicious cookies given to us special by Santa Clause himself. The people who hosted the program had several groups sing Christmas songs for us. There were children choirs and a rapping duo. The mc spoke in Norwegian and although a few songs were in English, many were in Norwegian.

As the performances continued, glow sticks and flames were handed out. The latter was highly unexpected. Imagine a stick (1.5 feet long) wrapped in flammable twine. Surrounded by safety boundaries, some guy uses a blowtorch to light four or five of these on fire at once.  Then, those who crowd the barriers are handed these huge, open flames. It was so cooool. When we got our flame stick things, we returned to our ideal position between the tree and the stage and continued listening to the beautiful songs.

The combination of the wind and open flames made it a little difficult to focus on songs as opposed to my hair burning to a crisp. The possibility of baldness aside, the view of hundred of flickering flames and twinkling lights made the event even more magical.

We began the countdown of the tree lighting as the performances came to an end. Fem, fire, tre, to, null and the tree came to life. The crowed erupted in cheer and the fireworks began. It was a beautiful show. Seeing fireworks as a Christmas tradition felt different than what we experience during the Fourth of July. The closeness that comes with the holiday season was heightened as glowing lights brightened the trees, the crowd, the tree, and even the sky.

To share this night with such remarkable friends meant so much to me. It reminded me how important it is to make an effort to connect with those around you. Meet up with people and let your casual conversations teach you something. Learning about Christmas traditions in our respective countries showed me that although we celebrate a bit differently, the feelings the traditions evoke are the same. As I look back at the magical night, I’m certain I’ll try to incorporate these traditions into my life, including the close friendships.


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