We bumped into each other on another blog we both frequent. I was delighted in her suggestion to do a blog post swap. (add my post here) As Christmas is just around the corner, I asked Jen to share a little about the season in Alaska.
Without further ado, please give Jen a hearty welcome.
Moving from the Seattle area to Anchorage twelve years ago was quite an adjustment for me. I arrived on April 30th to a fresh one-inch dusting of snow. Growing up, I’d encountered a little snow pretty much every winter, but we usually only gathered a few inches in December or January. In Alaska, snow usually comes in September and melts away in April. This year, we did get a dusting in September but the heavy stuff that stays around didn’t arrive until November, so our autumn was extended longer than usual.
The biggest adjustment specific to Christmas was the tree. During my childhood, since we lived in a forest, my dad went out and cut down a small pine tree. I absolutely loved the smell that filled out little cabin! But the climate here is so dry that most people don’t keep a real tree. Some families manage it by standing the tree in a water mixture but even then, the tree only lasts a week or two and the needles that fall off make quite a mess. Since we like putting up the tree by December 1st, we opted to buy a pre-lit fake tree, and now we’re used to it.
And the lights! We don’t see the sun much during the winter because we’re so far north. This week sunrise is timed for about 10am and sunset for 3:45pm, so most people drive to and from work in the dark. Since daylight hours are so short during the winter, Alaskans put up Christmas lights in October to brighten up the city. Our church organizes a “put-up-the-lights” day where several people gather with ladders to tack lights to the building.
My family doesn’t put lights on the house. There are only two plug-ins outside and we need those for our cars. Because the weather is so cold, vehicles tend to not want to work right (can you blame them? J ). Since we don’t have a garage to keep them warm, we have to plug the engine into a heat source. Most vehicles sold in Alaska come with a block heater already installed. When you go to bed at night, you flip the switch so the car will start the next morning when you leave for work.
When I first came here I wondered how planes could fly in the snow. My husband, who now works as a ramp supervisor for United Parcel Service (UPS), explained to me that snow isn’t the problem, it’s ice. Anchorage is an international airport so we get a lot more traffic than you might think. Just the other day UPS had to shut down a runway due to freezing rain and my husband was at work for 14 hours trying to get the planes back in the air. They have a special fluid they spray on the planes to de-ice them so they can fly. This fluid is heated to 2000 degrees!
Moving here was quite an adjustment for me, but while the winters can feel very long, I do love it here. We’re surrounded by beauty. I’m blessed to live on the edge of town with the military land behind my house, so it’s usually pretty quiet.
Thanks Jen. Wow, Anchorage in December is certainly different to sunny Sydney. Cars with block heaters? Well whaddya know! Learn something new everyday.
Jen, wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas.
Jen grew up on the Columbia River Gorge and currently resides in Alaska with her husband, two children, two boxers, and two cats. She’s published 4 stories through Helping Hands Press. You can find Jen over on her website or on her Facebook page.