Raw Caribou and Seal for Christmas

“Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!” We sat on folding chairs arranged on the periphery of the triple gym. People passed by us and offered their hands and greetings. It is Christmas day and we were at the community feast on the Inuit side.

The gym was garlanded with lights and streamers. A stage was set up, filled with prizes. “There will be a draw,” a woman at the door said as she handed Andy a ticket for a ‘man prize’ and one to me, for a ‘woman prize’. I noted a yellow ski-doo in the gym. What a prize for the lucky winner!

Little girls twirled on the gym floor in lacy dresses and shiny shoes. Little boys in vests and shirts chased each other. Older kids in jeans, stood in clusters talking and laughing. Mothers with babies tucked into their amautis chatted with elders.

“I’ve never heard a baby cry here,” I mused to Andy as I watched the young mother beside me arrange her baby in a square cloth on her back. This is the way babies are carried inside. Outside, they are tucked into the hood of a traditional parka. There is always a woman nearby to help.

At the centre of the gym, black plastic garbage bags were taped to the floor. Large chunks of raw deep burgundy caribou, seal meat, and white feathered ptarmigans lay in huge piles. A couple of large coolers held shrimp. At an announcement, people stood up and headed to the centre to pick up a section of meat. Some ate right there, sitting on the floor; others brought meat back to their families sitting at the edge of the gym. The mother beside me chewed the meat for her baby, as a young man cut raw slivers for her with a large knife.

At the other side of the gym, tables were laden with at least 12 oversized turkeys, pots of caribou stew, and a couple of cardboard boxes, lined with plastic, filled with macaroni salad. There were no utensils, just a box of surgical gloves. You just put one on and dig in! It was wonderful to be with children and families on this Christmas day, and to feel welcome.

Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukah, Blessings at Solstice, Joyeux Noel and Frohliches Weihnachtesfest to all those so far away.

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3 thoughts on “Raw Caribou and Seal for Christmas

  1. And to think that we thought you might be lonely up there… It seems to me that you were the one surrounded by people who were happy to just be with each other, despite not having the Holly and the Ivy and all the other trumpery we seem to have become dependent on. But I don’t think I could have eaten the raw elk meat. Did you?

  2. It was a lovely time, there were at least 2 – 300 people. To get an idea of how much meat there was the black plastic was at least 6 ft wide by 25 ft long and it was piled with the meat as Andi describes. We had wanted to take pictures but no-one else was taking pictures so we respected their privacy//traditions. The Inuit people love to laugh and are very friendly. Almost everyone at the feast including the elders, children, women and men walked around the large circle of chairs surrounding the gym floor and shook hands and wished a Merry Christmas to all. Of course what made it special was spending it together, Andi and I.

    Andy

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