Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reflections on An Arctic Christmas

[Lorraine says:] Well, Christmas is now past, its -33 not including the windchill, John is off skiing, and it is a competition whether the snowmobiles tearing around or the ravens up their regular highjinks are the most entertaining activity outside the window right now.

Its actually been a busy Christmas. Other than Christmas day, when we had a quiet day relaxing at home, its been a non-stop whirlwind of socializing, Christmas parties and community events.

The whole town here definitely gets into the Christmas mood, mostly by socializing up a storm. The local Inuit seem to set the pace, setting up tons of community events, work get-togethers, and socializing opportunities. Many Qallunaat (non-Inuit) head south at Christmas, and those that are left also socialize up a storm. Pretty well every night for the past two weeks we have had a party or social occasion to go to, including some good music jams. We hosted a gang on Boxing Day for a big turkey feed, which was a lot of fun.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the community Christmas pagaent at the Anglican parish hall (which fills in for the famous Igloo-shaped cathedral which burned down a couple years ago and which is being rebuilt). Two young Inuit neighbours from our apartment building (boys, around 10) were with us and they were excited when they were given 'glow sticks' at the service. They were flashing them around outside afterwards as we were walking home, and John suggested they could use them to flag down a plane at the airport. They decided they could flag down a plane right there in the field where we were walking and that the four of us could then fly anywhere we wanted. I suggested we could go to the north pole, given it was Christmas Eve. No, they said excitedly, we could take the plane to Ottawa, which would be REALLY exciting! Ah, its all about perspective...

The Anglican Cathedral Before it Burned Down:

Last night we went to the local arena to watch the traditional Inuit games which go on each day from Christmas until a big community feast on New Years day. The arena can't be used for skating anymore (the permafrost beneath is melting, so the building is sinking and ice would be too heavy) but does get used for some community events like the games. A lot of the games last night involved dice (you'd roll to see if you got the right number to do the game in question), music and/or dancing. It was a lot of fun, though a little hard to join in if you couldn't understand the Inuktitut directions. One thing I found really surprising and refreshing was how many young people, particularly young Inuit men (dressed in hip hop gear) joined in enthusiastically in the traditional dancing. They there were jigging up a storm in their backwards ball caps, baggy pants and Tu Pac t-shirts.

One of the more disconcerting moments on the night came in the middle of all the Inuit accordian jigs and reels being played by the live band or from recordings. Suddenly I noticed that the tune Jack Tar was playing, which John's old band Swingbridge plays. I poked John and marvelled at how similar the arrangement was to Swingbridge's. Then Diggy Li, another Swingbridge favourite, came on and we realized they were playing Swingbridge as the background music for the Inuit traditional games. John had given a copy of Swingbridge's album to a local guy, who it turned out was taking care of the sound system for the games. Too funny.

It's 2:30 and dark outside. I need to get moving to get to the library before it closes. Tonight is Scrabble night for me with some fellow Scrabble fans, and I think John will go back to the traditional games.


Don Baxter said...

It sounds like you guys had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was far quieter by comparison.

Don and Jack

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Mieke said...

Hi there:
Can I post your Xmas blog on our website?

John and Lorraine (a.k.a. "Birdland") said...

Sure Mieke - go ahead and put a link to our blog. Hope all is well at Gamiing ...