Spending Christmas and the new year onboard a research ship is something I have never imagined. I have always thought that Christmas and new year are the times when you spend more time with your family and loved ones. However, this was not the case for us scientists and crew members of the SO287 CONNECT cruise. For many of us, it was the first time to be not only far away from our families, but also away from land in the Atlantic Ocean.
Before the night of Christmas Eve came, two Christmas trees were already decorated both inside the lounge and outside, on deck. The Christmas tree outside was decorated with science tools and stuff from each working group. The Christmas tree inside was filled with presents underneath it. Each present contains a 2022 calendar, the expedition’s T-shirt, and some chocolates, candies, and other snacks.
For a ship full of people with diverse backgrounds, we surely have our different ways of celebrating Christmas and new year. Despite the various cultures on board, we managed to plan Christmas and new year’s parties that included many flavors from these cultures. On the night of the 24th, we gathered in the ship’s lounge to sing Christmas songs from different countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Portugal. Furthermore, there were also cultural contributions from other countries such as Norway, China, and the UK.
Another interesting activity that we did was Secret Santa. We prepared presents in advance to be exchanged during Christmas time on the cruise. We then had to quietly put our presents during the day inside the conference room. On Christmas night, we were split into smaller groups where we rolled some dice to determine which present we would get. In the end, we all got our secret presents and each of us had to describe our presents in the room so that everyone has a clue with whom his/her presents ended up.
On the day of the 31st, we started celebrating new year’s eve. It was the most unusual new year’s celebration I ever had. On this cruise, there are people of eleven different nationalities. This also means we come from different time zones. Some may celebrate the new year earlier, and some later. I come from Indonesia, and two other scientists come from the Philippines and China. Since the three of us are from East Asia, we had to celebrate new year’s way earlier than everyone else.
Our new year happened to be at 12 PM board time, exactly during lunchtime. Before lunch, we posted a small poster entailing some information about the various ways new years are celebrated in China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It’s was eye-opening to learn that despite cultural differences, there are still similarities in some aspects, particularly when it comes to family gatherings, fireworks, and of course, the amount of food prepared.
To celebrate our new year, we prepared some bracelets with bottle caps that would make some noise when shaken. We distributed them during lunchtime, and at exactly 12 PM, we stood up and announced that we are celebrating our new year. Everyone participated in shaking the bracelets while we played Auld Lang Syne and the Chinese new year’s song. It was a really wholesome moment.
Later in the day, we also celebrated a couple more new years. At 7 PM board time, we celebrated the new year of the Central European Time (CET), which includes Germany, France, Spain and Norway. At 8 PM, we celebrated the UTC new year, which includes the UK, Portugal, and Senegal. We made a large circle, with everyone holding each other’s hands while singing Auld Lang Syne. In the end, at 00:00, we all celebrated the ship’s new year.
Never before have I celebrated new year’s this way. It felt like there were so many new years in one day, because of the many nationalities. It was a surreal new year experience, one which will likely last for a long time in all our memories.
Peihang Xu and Hanif Sulaiman