Christmas Around The World – Greenland
Having looked at how Greece celebrated Christmas, we head off north-easterly for 5032km, where we find ourselves in Greenland.
With a population of just 56000, Greenland sees just under 33% of its population living in the capital Nuuk.
Around 80% of Greenland is covered by ice caps and glaciers, however the uncovered land is still almost as big as Sweden.
So how do people in Greenland celebrate Christmas?
Advent – 25th December with St Lucia’s Day celebrated on the 13th December
Predominantly Christian, with around 64% Evangelical Lutheran
Christmas trees, usually imported from Denmark, are popular and are often decorated on the 23rd December with candles, colourful ornaments and ‘kamiks‘ (small versions of sealskin breeches).
An alternative to an imported tree is a traditional driftwood tree decorated with heather.
An illuminated star (sometimes called a ‘poinsettia star‘) is put in the window of most houses and in all public buildings, which helps bring light since the sun never rises in Greenland during winter.
Many villages will have a large Christmas tree where everyone can see it, often on a nearby hill, which is decorated for the start of advent.
Families will get together for Christmas parties where brightly wrapped presents are exchanged.
Everyone in the village will get a gift and traditional presents include model sledges, polished walrus tusks, and sealskin mitts.
Children will often go house-to-house carol singing.
Most people will go to the Christmas Eve Church service where many people will dress in national clothes, for example, many men will wear white anoraks which are for special occasions.
It’s traditional that, during the Christmas meal, the men serve women their food and coffee.
After the meal, there are games, including a game where a repulsive object is passed around a long table under the cloth. This object is suppose to be round, clammy and rough, such as a frozen egg wrapped in wet fox fur.
To remember family and friends who have passed away, some people will light candles in cemeteries on Christmas Eve.
Santa Claus is said to have a house in Spragleburten in the north of Greenland.
At family parties, people will usually drink coffee and eat cakes.
Some unique Christmas foods include ‘Mattak‘, which is whale skin with a strip of blubber inside, and ‘Kiviak‘, which is the raw flesh of auks (artic birds), which have been buried whole in sealskin for several months until they reach an advanced stage of decomposition.
There’s also ‘Suaasat‘ (soup/stew), barbecued caribou/reindeer, razorbill (bird), lamb, ptarmigan (bird), and fish (either raw sushi or cooked).
Popular Christmas desserts are berries and apples, with a crisp topping, and a special Christmas porridge topped with butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Danish pastries and Christmas cookies are also popular.
Our next Christmas celebration destination is Guatemala.