God Jul – Linksmų Kalėdų – Merry Christmas


Huge Christmas tree with Ravinder in Vilnius

Stockholm is definitely dark in late December.  Swedes have traditions at this time of year.  For one, on Christmas eve, Julafton, nearly everyone in the country watches Donald Duck, Kalle Anka at 3 pm.  The shops close, and only the tourists walk around the old town.  Here people buy their Christmas trees rather late, typically on the 22nd of December, and the tree-sellers huddle around small fires on the street corners.  We buy a large one, nearly 3 meters tall for the high-ceilinged apartment.  The Christmas lights we place on the tree are probably older than I, and we use an ancient converter to light the colored bulbs; from 220V to 110V.  This Sehgal clan has a mix of traditions, USA, Lithuania and Swedish, all seamlessly flowing as if every family in the world does the same. Kalle Anka is followed by Kūčios, the traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dinner, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus through the chimney with his sleigh guided by Rudolph.

This Christmas Day, the temperature in San Francisco is the same as in Stockholm. It is unusually warm here in Sweden, at least for these few days since I have arrived. Traveling during the holidays is always challenging, but this time, my flight was cancelled, and my luggage was lost. I had one rushed day in Vilnius on the way, where I saw good friends, and bought my favorite black bread, and beet horseradish.  The majestic Christmas tree near the cathedral has been featured all over the internet.

Christmas at home in Stockholm

The year of 2016 was full of opportunities, challenges and plenty of travel for me.  I definitely predicted politics incorrectly and I am concerned about the future of American science. For researchers studying deforestation and global climate change, like myself, I fear that federal funding in the USA will become even more competitive. There is violence against many people throughout the world, but the forest plants and animals have no voice.  Eventually the people will figure themselves out, but by then the planet’s biodiversity will be lost.  I will continue my research on avian diseases and deforestation in 2017, hopefully contributing in a small way to conservation awareness.

The LIll-Jans forest in Stockholm has lost its leaves.  I celebrated my 50th birthday here just a few months ago, and now a different icy beauty accompanies my morning jog.  Lots of gifts and cheerful abundance fill my life, with gratitude for the small moments to the large endeavors.  To my new and old friends and family, wishing everyone a very happy holiday season!