Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 12: Greenland

A village in Greenland
The last stop on our 12-day adventure is Greenland. And, contrary to its name, it is actually quite cold. So get out your anorak (a traditional white coat lined with fur) for this freezing journey. There are two main languages spoken here-Inuit/Greenlandic and Danish. So there are two ways to say "Merry Christmas". In Greenlandic, it's Juullimi Ukiortaassamilu Pilluarit (say that ten times fast!), and in Danish it is Gl├Ždelig Jul.

Did you know that Christmas trees have to be imported because trees do not grow as far north as Greenland? The trees are often brought from Denmark, and then they're decorated with candles, bright ornaments, and sometimes even small versions of sealskin breeches known as kamiks on the night of December 23rd. If people don't buy an imported tree, they might use a traditional driftwood tree that's decorated with heather. Villages also put up a large Christmas tree on a nearby hill so that everyone can see it.

There are some interesting foods eaten during Christmas time. Mattak is whale skin with a strip of blubber inside (yum). It's supposed to taste like fresh coconut, but it's often too hard to chew, so people just swallow it. Another food is kiviak, the raw flesh of little aucks (a kind of arctic bird) that have been buried whole in sealskin for several months until they are really decomposed; this is a delicacy in Greenland.

People also eat suaasat (a soup/stew), barbecued caribou, fish (either raw like sushi or cooked), and a popular dessert made of berries and apples with a crisp topping. They also eat many Danish pastries. It's a tradition that on Christmas night men take care of the women, serving the food and coffee.

Like in Finland, some people say that Santa Claus lives in Greenland as well. Either that or it's where he goes for his summer holidays at least. People say that he as a home in the north of the country in Spraglebugten, near the town of Uummannaq. And because so many people believe Santa lives there, children actually send letters to him. The letters are addressed to the "North Pole," but they end up in the post office in Greenland's capital, Nuuk. Around 50,000 letters are sent to Santa every year. Another neat thing is that people there think Santa's sleigh isn't pulled by reindeers but by dogs.

Eskimo Children in Greenland
Fun Facts: 
*People often put lit-up stars in their windows to help bring some light, since the sun never rises in Greenland in the winter.

*Traditional gifts in Greenland are model sledges, a pair of polished walrus tusks or sealskin mittens. Everyone in the village receives a gift, and kids go from house to house singing songs for their neighbors.

Play “What’s that you’re passing?”
A popular Christmas game is passing an object from one hand to another under a long table, hidden beneath the table cloth. Traditionally the object is something that's supposed to feel gross (like a frozen egg, wrapped in strips of wet fox fur) and that's round, clammy, and rough. Next time your are at dinner, try playing this game. Find something that might feel funny in your hand and pass it around from one person to the next. After everyone's touched it, try guessing what it is.

*All of the above information has been taken from the Wycliffe-created characters, Kate and Mack. To sign up for more children activities or learn about the book they feature in (Around the World with Kate and Mack), click on this link:

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