Little Compass RoseCaribbean Compass  December 2001


Scandinavian Christmas in Bequia

by Mariann Palmborg

When I was a little girl I lived in a very big apartment house in Sweden, and at Christmas Eve my family and I used to dance in a long line through all the apartments asking everybody to join onto the line. We ended up at the top of the building, where I lived, and we served glogg, a traditional spiced wine drink. To start the Christmas festivities like this became a very popular custom and when I married in Norway I brought this tradition to where I lived in Oslo.
Later in life Peter "Fixman" and I built Fredag, a Colin Archer double-ended, gaff-rigged ketch of 50 feet, in the back garden in Oslo. It was replica of a 100-year-old rescue boat called Vardo.

We sold out and left Norway for a circumnavigation in 1984. But we didn't complete the circumnavigation because in July 1985 we hit a reef at Union Island and Fredag sank just outside Clifton Harbor. As we were not insured we had no choice but to raise the boat again, managing it with all the help we got from other sailors and local people.

After this accident we tried to get the boat in shape again (I tell you it was a mess!) and we worked for years earning our living by doing charters. But we were followed by bad luck and just everything happened to us. Masts were coming down, sails were ripping, natural catastrophes happened, the engine never seemed to work, and after paying the bank loan often there was nothing left for food.

But we didn't give up and after six hard years things were a little bit better. We were based in Bequia, taking people out for sunset cruises with Fredag, and Peter became "Fixman" - fixing other people's boats.

Being a boat lady can be lonesome sometimes, especially at Christmas. So I invited some Swedes and Norwegians aboard to "start the Christmas" with glogg one Christmas Eve while Fixman was working. I included other Scandinavians in the party the following year and my reborn tradition became very popular. It grew and grew, and the year before I sold the boat I had 150 people aboard for glogg - all at the same time! (I had to close the seacock to the toilet because the boat was so low in the water.)

In 1995 I moved ashore in Bequia and Fredag sailed home to Norway with a new owner. And my Christmas tradition grew bigger still! There has been a lot of publicity around the event, especially in Norway, and the biggest number of Christmas party-goers so far is 270, all having connection to Scandinavia in one way or another. (One "son of the island" has become a regular because he speaks Norwegian.)

I do ropeworks and sell my stuff from a colorful old Landrover in the harbour. I am now called "Why Knot" - nice name isn't it? But the season is short and to survive I had to get myself a summer job in Norway. For the past four summers I've worked as a boat-guard in a marina in Oslo. I go back and forth from Bequia to Norway, and enjoy the best of two worlds. In Oslo sailors often drop by at the marina where I work (Skayen Boatforening) to tell me that they are sailing across the Atlantic and will be in Bequia at Christmas for my famous glogg party! I proudly notice that my party attracts many Scandinavians to Bequia.
So if you have a connection to Scandinavia you are VERY WELCOME TO JOIN THE PARTY IN BEQUIA, CHRISTMAS EVE 1PM ­ 3PM. Don't forget to bring red wine to put into the glogg, and also some money for a very special gift - at each party we try to make a different contribution to Bequia's Sunshine School for Children with Special Needs. I live at Mount Pleasant near the antenna; taxis will take you from the harbour for EC$5 per person each way (please pay each way separately, otherwise we get confusion and unhappy taxi drivers!). I look forward to seeing you there.
God Jul Alle Sammen!

Copyright© 2001 Compass Publishing