It is now the 1st of December and although Christmas lights, music and adverts have long been surrounding us it is not until now, today, that it starts to feel right. We are in this little team at Influenced by Nature all looking forward to celebrating Christmas with all the traditions that we have grown up with. Even though we have been raised in completely different parts of the world, Denmark and California US, we still recognise many of the same elements in our Christmas traditions due to the vast globalisation we have seen especially throughout the west. But what about the people who have largely been avoiding this globalisation? The indigenous people. Those who traditionally live off and by nature. Photographer Ashley Cooper, who we spoke to in the latest episode, went to visit the indigenous Inuit population in the Arctic to document how they are affected by climate change. Now that we are entering the biggest month of celebrations in our calendar we got curious to what traditions the Inuits celebrate during the year.
Living in one of the toughest climates in the world, the Inuits are some of the most adaptable people you will meet. Living in the arctic part of Canada, Alaska and Greenland, the month of December is almost experienced entirely in darkness as the sun only rise above the horizon a few hours of the day. Dancing green northern lights breaks the darkness from time to time and adds a certain magic to the season.
According to western traditions you almost don’t get closer to the heart of Christmas as Santa Claus is said to have his home in the arctic North Pole. But if we look at the inuit traditions, Santa Claus cannot have been more than another kind neighbour as their early beliefs had nothing to do with the Christmas that we know today.
Truthfully, IbN does not know much about indigenous cultures and their celebrations, but we sure would like to begin to learn and bring attention to different cultures. Afterall, we share the same land and resources! Of course, native celebrations likely differ from tribe to tribe and we merely manage to gain a few examples, not representative of indigenous peoples as a whole.
RETURN OF THE SUN
For natives of Igloolik, the return of the sun each year is a call for celebration . The festival means that the long winter is over and that hunting has become a bit easier with more daylight. In the course of five days, there are talent shows, ceremonies, and dog racing, Traditionally, the festival meant even more when communities came out of winter with a surplus, meaning they could feast in the celebration. The Artcirq, a circus group, concludes the festival.
In Kugluktuk, Nunavut, a region of Canada, communities celebrate the arrival of spring in mid-april with a week long festival. The activities include snow races, seal hunting, food, concerts, competition of best traditional attire, and parades.
Celebrated annually on July 9th, Nunavut Day is the celebration of the establishment of the territory of Nunavut in northeastern Canada. The establishment of Nunavut gave the Inuits designated territories. The holiday begins with community pancake breakfasts, then continues with traditional drum dancing, games, and throat singing.
Toonik festival, taking place each spring to celebrate warmer and longer days, brings together people for events including games, singing, and traditional activities. It aims to preserve Inuit heritage but welcomes tourists. The festival is named after the Tuniit people who lived in Eastern Greenland and Canadian Arctic before the Inuits. Their superior hunting skills are remembered and revered despite the disappearance of the Tuniit people.
In some communities, globalised Christmas traditions exist in integration with native culture due to the European influence over the past century. However, their own culture calls for instances of festivities, many of which celebrate the force of nature in relation to the Inuits' seemingly impenetrable perseverance against cold dark winters and what wonderful resources mother nature provides in the springtime and longer days.
With this little bundle of celebrations we want to remind ourselves of appreciating nature even in the dark month of December and remember that it is nature that gives us snow covered landscapes, crisp and chilly mornings and the Christmas tree that lights up our living rooms.
We hope you have a cozy start to the month of Christmas!