So. Here in Niceland we’re currently in the process of gearing up for the Mutha of all parties [and if you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that we have many over the course of the year], namely New Years Eve.

Despite their crazy reputation, though, the New Years celebrations actually start off pretty tame and traditional. Pretty much everyone in this country does the same thing. First there is dinner, which is a fairly Big Deal, although not quite as big a deal as Christmas. The emphasis here is on a) Excellent food, b) Fun, replete with party hats, crackers, etc. c) Family. In our case, EPI’s daughters are with us [they spend Christmas each year at their mother’s place and NY Eve with us], so it’s the six of us for dinner, with more family [boyfriends, etc.] likely joining in later.

After dinner, we usually head down to the huge bonfire held down on Ægissíða [and yes, that’s what yesterday’s pic was all about]. Such bonfires are lit throughout the country on New Years Eve and symbolize the burning of the old. [year. obviously.] There’s always a really fun atmosphere – kids with sparklers, people setting off firecrackers, people mingling – everybody in a happy state of intoxication [natural or induced]. In recent years we’ve also seen the added trend of tourists by the busloads, with camcorders aloft. Getting all down with the natives, like.

So. When that’s done, it’s time for the third installment in the remarkably fixed line-up that is New Years Eve in Iceland. This is the Áramótaskaup – an hour-long TV programme of skits in which the country’s top comedians do a send-up of the year’s events, politicians, etc. [Something like this, but lasting for a full hour and covering the whole year.] This is always greatly anticipated, shrouded in the greatest secrecy beforehand, and the streets are virtually deserted while it is on. Indeed, in the days and weeks afterwards [well, maybe two weeks at most, we’re not that sad], the Skaup will be the main topic of conversation around watercoolers: whether it was funnier than last year, which skit was the funniest, which actor did the best job of imitating which politician, etc. Kind of banal, but there you go – another foible!

The end of the Skaup at 11.30pm signals the start of the Madness. In Iceland, you see, for better or for worse, fireworks are sold unrestricted to the general public between Christmas and New Years. [Which is why, dear tourist, you will find all mailboxes locked and all public garbage cans removed in the days leading up to and immediately following New Years Eve.] We generally head a few blocks up to the highest hill in the vicinity, where loads of people gather together to shoot fireworks into the sky. At midnight, all hell breaks loose. It’s like a war zone – the noise is maddening, but the sky is a sight to behold! Plus everybody jumps up and down and hugs their neighbour and everybody wishes everyone a Happy New Year and the Champagne flows [providing somebody has remembered to bring it]. This lasts for about half an hour, after which everybody sort of heads off home to continue the partying. At this point the Reckless Young People [i.e. the ones that still get a kick out of the bar scene – does not include YT who has a serious aversion to bars unless they have lots of fun people I know inside] head off to do their various carousing, while we the Sane Sensible people get looped on Champagne and play Actionary. Or something.

So there you have it – New Years Eve in Iceland, ladies and gentlemen. Oh, and props to Universal Soldier, Maggie, Louise and JB [who actually should be disqualified because he is Already in the Know] who all said ‘bonfire’ for yesterday’s mystery photo. It is indeed the pile that will become the Big Bonfire that I shall be watching hypnotized tomorrow evening.*

Predictably, we at the Weather Report don’t give a rat’s ass about today’s weather – it’s tomorrow’s we want! Because if there was ever an evening in which the weather is of Prime Importance, it is the Weather on New Years Eve. So anyway, our resident weatherman has promised us a good one [as opposed to last year, when they had to actually cancel the brenna on account of a storm] so we’re cool. Temps at the moment are 3°C, we’ve had a blustery day, and our longed-for snow is all but gone. Sunrise at 11.21, sunset 15.39.