Nunatsiaq Online
COMMENTARY: Around the Arctic December 12, 2014 - 9:03 am

My Little Corner of Canada, Dec. 12

Christmas in the High Arctic

JOHN AMAGOALIK

The first Christmas we experienced in Resolute after being relocated there from Inukjuak in 1953 was not much to remember.

We were homesick, frustrated and angry with all the lies the government had told us about the High Arctic, hungry, and feeling totally isolated from the rest of the world.

We had a community church service in the largest iglu in our village.  Small gifts were exchanged. They were wrapped in newspaper and magazine pages and tied with thread.

The men gave each other items like carving tools, files, a snow knife, sheets of sanding paper, or a pocket knife. The women exchanged articles of clothing, needles and thread, beads, yarn, or perhaps a piece of cleaned and dried seal skin. The children got duffle socks, sealskin mitts, or a knitted hat.

These gifts may not sound like much but they were all we had and they were received with much appreciation.

In 1954 or 1955, I forget now, we were introduced to a different kind of Christmas. The men who worked at the airbase (they were mostly Americans then) had a social club they called The Arctic Circle Club. The club had a bar at the base and it was profitable.

The members had agreed to spend some of that profit to have a Christmas feast for the whole village.

At the appointed day, a small convoy of Bombardier snowmobiles came down to our village and picked up everyone and drove us to the airbase.  For most of us it was the first time we ever set foot in their buildings.

We were ushered into the base dining room. It was decorated with glittering lights, tinsel, brightly colored paper, and a Christmas tree decorated with all manner of beautiful things. Christmas music came from a record player. It was the first time I had ever seen such things.

We were all seated in the rows of tables covered in white linen.  We were served a feast of turkey, mashed potato, vegetables, cranberry sauce, juice and Christmas cake.

After we were stuffed, Santa showed up. Every single member of our village were called by name and got a gift wrapped in beautiful paper. Big metal toy trucks, small models of cars, trucks, airplanes. Spinning tops, toy guns, dolls, and musical toys. As an eight year old, I remember thinking to myself that this must be what heaven was like.

We were given paper bags to take the leftovers home, which fed our families the next day.

The feast became an annual event for many years that we all remember with deep gratitude. Sixty years later, we still remember the generosity of those who shared their Christmas spirit.

Farewell to Number 4

Jean Béliveau was a giant in a team filled with legendary hockey players.

 

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