Relaxing and gathering strength after Easter…we had a fantastic time! A little while ago we had an expert on trees out to look at our three christmas trees in my garden for a price suggestion. They weren’t pretty but I really wanted to keep them since my grandad planted them a very long time ago. He planted one for each child, he had four but didn’t plant one for the youngest before he accidentally drowned out fishing. During this year one of the trees died and the others looked dying. I would be very expensive to cut them down. I spoke to a neighbour about it and day before Easter three Christmas tree hunters(in my age) knocked on the door claiming to be tree experts and asking if they could take one of the trees as the centre piece for the big bonfire, how happy was I?? So they turned up in larger numbers on Easter eve morning, cut it down, dragged it behind a car and pulled it up the mountain!
I stayed for many hours watching everyone build the bonfire. All the trees that kids around the island had collected since Christmas where brought out in daylight and pulled up the mountain. It’s a huge family convention, kids from the age of 3 to adult help out and have a great time.
The whole tradition is not only positive, there are a lot of break-ins and fights but overall I think it’s fantastic and hope it carries on for many years to come. In the old days they put a lot of tar, led and whatever they could find that burnt on the fire which caused toxic fumes but now it’s mainly trees and this year they used oil from the chip-shops.
In the evening we went to watch it burn, 1319 trees, lots of people and an amazing feeling! The day after we returned and my tree was still there, kept upright by metal wires, still smouldering many hours later.
So the tradition on the islands are still going strong. There is nothing else as controversial if you don’t count “build a bridge vs keep the ferries”. I try to not let my personal views out too strong in this blog but I do love the xmas tree hunting. Comparing to the old days it is so much healthier now and since one or two years ago, the council put some effort in to it trying to stop people using car tires and petrol etc, now we’ve had the cleanest bonfires since probably like ever! We went up to the nature reserve to watch them build the fire earlier today.
This year we went for the largest fire on the Island. Since we moved here we have gone to Kanonberget but this year there was a big landmark for boats put up right where the bonfire usually is and I also think that fire will die out soon because of lack of interest. So we went to the biggest one, in Rö(Hönö Red) we have all heard lots of horror stories about that one, people being put in hospital, burning tires chasing people down the hill and a four wheelie being overturned into the fire. But this year we came away with the feeling that we miss the usual bonfire. There is usually at least one crazy person shouting, a few people letting off fire works in the crowd and the happiness when you actually make it up the mountain through all the shrubberies and cliffs. Comparing to the big crowd, lit-up way to the top, our usual fire felt much more intimate and fun. I hope they will start it up again next year!
Is it Spring?? Today sure felt like it. Blazing sunlight, only a couple of degrees but the sunshine warmed our skin. We went for a long walk down the beach and the wind was thankfully dying down. It was so beautiful! Just regret not bringing swimming clothes.
The chickens are basking in the sunlight. Sand/soil bathing and then stretching out in the sun, so happy! On top of that we are chicken watchers for a week so we now have 12 little chicks in the basement and one baby quail. I am slowly dying the cuteness overload death every time I go down to check on them.
I am so getting into the Easter spirit. Easter is the most important holiday on the island. You can really feel the whole island sizzling with mopeds and old Volvo cars (who would definitely wouldn’t pass the MOT) frantically driving around looking for X-mas trees. All collecting them for the bonfires tomorrow. Sometime tomorrow morning, think it’s around 2 or 3am that there’s a seize fire and everyone starts bringing their trees out and building the fires. We’ll be out capturing it on film. More to come…
A nice visit
Feels like it was Easter yesterday but now it was a few weeks ago. Easter is always exciting on the island though. We had Airbnb guests staying upstairs and brought them along to the fire. This year we decided to break our tradition to go see the largest fire on Hönö. Since we moved here we have every year gone to “Hea”, after all the stories we heard about Hönö “röd” with fights, burning wheels rolling down the mountain and such we’ve chosen to take the kids to the more family friendly fire. So I must say I had some butterflies in my belly this year but turned out it was completely unnecessary. There were loads of people, adults, youngsters and children but most of them very well behaved. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsarah.lycksten%2Fvideos%2Fvb.651592990%2F10153638295007991%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>Here’s a little video taken just after the fire was lit. This year the council had gone out with warnings saying that everyone starting a fire had to have a permit and if they found oil, tires or other things apart from Christmas trees they would take the fires down. Plus they said there would be more police on the Island than had ever been(to this my son replied -what, like three?). We had a nice time but next year we’ll be back at Hea, it felt more like “our” fire. We didn’t have any more guests over Easter, usually we have a big bash with new and old friends but this year apart from the airbnb’ers it was just the family. One week earlier I happened by the food shop on the next island and found them selling really nice pigs meat, perfect for bacon. So I bought some for my husband, he salted it, I rubbed and massaged it every day and Easter eve he smoked it together with some salmon. Homemade bacon, we’ve wanted to try that for ages. It was so awesome! So easy and so much flavour. Since Easter days have sped up. To the point that I’ve lost track of the days. I did get really enjoyed and sent an email to complaining about not having received my morning newspaper for two days. When they replied saying that according to their records I only have a weekend subscription I thought I would sink through the floor. This was on a Wednesday and I had worked over the weekend and because the kids had Easter holiday I thought it was the weekend…
…the snow never stays very long. It’s all rained away now. You know you live on an island, well especially an island in the northern archipelago in Sweden, when everywhere you go there are bits of Christmas trees and little (and big) boys in overalls biking around day and night. I talked to one of the fishermens’ kids the other day. I’m so curious of the tradition(read more here, The big hunt is on! if you’re curious) and a bit jealous, if I’d grown up on Hönö I would definitely been out chasing trees! So I ask why they all smell like smoke when they come in the shop, maybe there’s some part of the tradition I don’t know about. He says, well we start small fires here and there, mainly around where the big bonfire will be. I ask why? Because it’s fun! (well duh!) And to clear the ground and in spring everything will grow up pretty and green. Apparently they carry on until they get a warning from the fire-department and a threat to outlaw the bonfires, then they lay low for a while until the week before Easter. I also asked how the hunt was going and he said they have about 50-60 trees which is about average but expect they will loose at least half before the bonfire is built. Another perk about living on an island is fresh seafood! The other day my cousin knocked on the door, well he didn’t knock out here they all open the door and shout -hello, anyone home? Two kilos of fresh prawns straight of one of the boats. So now I’ve had prawns everyday in soup, on toast, with pasta and probably half a kilo while I was peeling them…
Finally after months of collecting Christmas trees, with all possible means, the fires where built up. They start early in the morning and count the trees as they are brought out of hiding and stacked on a mountain. For the last months there has been kids in every corner, on bikes, on foot, in trashy trimmed Volvo’s and mopeds looking for places to hide and reveal trees. When you don’t see them around, at school time, there are still traces everywhere. The door to the wood shed left open, tiny footsteps on my new floor in the barn and pine needles in the streets. This year some of our guests for the evening brought children so we went down the beach where they had a child-friendly fire. No booze or bangers only responsible adults and responsibly set off fireworks. I brought my bike trolley full of wood and sticks from the garden. Got down there just as the sun was setting and all the kids where stood around the fire grilling marshmallows and running around looking for more things to burn. It was great and they had a wonderful time but I had to hurry back not to miss the big fire that we always go to. We set off to the mountain with firecrackers in one pocket and snaps in the other one. Snaps is strong Swedish flavoured alcohol. I had Västkustsnaps flavoured with rosehip, blackberries and sloes. Took us a while to find the right path up to the fire, mind you it’s pitch black out and surrounded by thorns, bushes, water and rocks but then we found some natives to follow. Before we’ve had to wait as late as 11pm but this year they lit the fires at 10pm. The sky filled with illegally lit emergency flares. Our fire is the smaller one at Hönö and it was very “clean”, apart from the sofa they put on there. From the other big fires at Hönö and Öckerö there was thick black smoke from car tires and oil being burnt. Standing on the mountain looking at the huge moon and feeling the blazing heat from the fire, looking out at all the islands, lights and people gives me goosebumps. Then as soon as the fire has burnt everyone goes home and carries on the party. Today is probably the quietest day of the year, apart from the church bells ringing.
There’s been a strange buzzing of activity on the island over the past few days. On every corner a group of kids on bikes and old worn Volvos driving around stacked with Christmas trees in the trunk. A helicopter has been circling the island and even a police car (there is no police on Hönö only if they get called out from the mainland). Apparently there is a code of honour, after four am Easter eve no one is allowed to steal any trees from each other. In the morning all the kids start bringing trees out from their hideouts and stacking them on the particular bonfire that they “belong” to. There is a lot of fuel, alcohol for the participants and gas canisters and oil for the bonfire. It’s all a recipe for disaster but, touch wood, usually it goes smooth. Oh and not to forget all the fireworks that kids throw on the fire.
I asked my neighbour, who’s 95 years old this summer, about the Easter fires. How long it’s been going on. He said -For ever, at least since from when I was a kid. We used to light one at Långholmen. You had to row your boat out full with xmas trees. One year someone gave us an old rowing boat and barrels of tar from Vadbinderiet(where they tie the fishing nets). That year the fire burned until four o’clock in the morning.
Then finally last night it was time. We made our way up to Kanon berget(Cannon hill), there was a lot of shouting up on the hill and as usual we lost our way going up, they had already lit the “narr-fyren (see https://henisland.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/the-big-hunt-is-on/) so we had to make our way up a steep mountainside. A large collection of trees were stacked and tied with ropes with a plastic ice-cream ad clown as decoration. It was all very civilised, the police showed up for the first time since we started going to that fire. They had made tour around the Islands and apparently confiscated 400litre of oil at one of the other fires. They also told us more about what happened Thursday, a shipping container was transported on the ferry with trees from the mainland( this is news to me I didn’t think there was cheating going on) a rivalry gang showed up and started a big fight and wild chase after the Xmas trees. There were a lot of rumours about injuries but the police had a different story. All in all we had a great night, not counting a sprained ankle, and woke up to summer weather. 20degrees sunshine and BBQ!