Two little girls were delighted and scared as they waited for gifts to fall from the skies

A child's Christmas in Kimmirut

By ANN MEEKITJUK HANSON - Special to Nunatsiaq News

There are so many special memories of Christmases I have experienced over the years, starting with Kimmirut when I was a little girl.

Christmas in the 1950s around Kimmirut was very different from the ones today. My Uncle Annugaq was a special guide and helper for the nurse in Kimmirut, so we lived in the community with few other families, in fact, very few people, under 30 people.

But at Christmas, this population would more than double because many people came to celebrate with family, friends and the church.

Our people were living on the land full-time. The only time they came to the community was during the summer, to have medical check-ups when the hospital ship, C.D. Howe came, to get staples like flour, ammunition, tea, sugar, materials, tobacco and at Christmas.

These were the times that we finally got to hear the news, all the news: who had babies, who got married, who died or who had travelled to other winter camps or summer camps.

The adults would cry when they heard who had died, since most of the people were related by blood or extended families. To us children, this was a very intriguing time because it was very rare when an adult cried.

As children, we were told to listen to the sound of an airplane as soon as December started. So, every day we would wake up knowing we might hear an airplane coming. We knew the plane would never land, just lower and then go away.

Adults were often disappointed if it was a cloudy day. There were so many maybes, maybe today, maybe tomorrow.

One day I was visiting Saimatuq, along with Annie Nattaq, then we heard it! We rushed out and listened some more, not breathing. We heard a faint roar, it kept getting closer and closer, then someone said "taimaluk," that is it! We got so excited, a plane! It was really it.

The airplane became visible above the hills, so fast and mysterious. It circled around our community. Annie and I were holding on to each other, laughing and being scared, then we saw items being thrown out of the plane, then a giant tent popped open above the item, the annual Christmas air drop had begun!

This is one of my early memories of wonderful Christ­mases past.

Since there was no extra housing, the people built their snow houses. There was a real sense of celebration all around. People were busy visiting each other. I remember my Aunt Bateeta washing her jars, the ones that had been on the shelf collecting dust.

The jars were probably jam jars, pickle jars collected from the nurse's garbage cans. After carefully washing the jars, my aunt wiped them clean and no one was allowed to touch them. They were beautiful and shiny. Then she put them away.

When Christmas finally came, it was magical even though there were no gifts placed under trees or anywhere, since we didn't know what a Christmas tree was at the time. The adults went around to each house and igloo and shook hands. There was much laughter.

There were no gifts visible, only in our peoples' heads, safely hidden until a gift exchange started after the most anticipated Christmas morning service.

This was the most important part of Christmas, the service with all the people. I especially remember the puffs of breath floating around the church, it was cloudy as our breaths met the cool air in the church, the special church.

The minister, Rev. Mike Gardener, would start the service with much visible happiness and this happiness spread on to us, as we listened with great interest about this baby being born on this day in a far away land. The hymns were wonderful and magical.

After the service, there was peace and joy, as everyone shook hands, especially with our minister. Then there was a huge feast. I especially remember beans. They were steaming as they were being ladled into our waiting cups. They were so good!

The gift exchange started soon after our Christmas morning service. There was no gift exchange among families, only to the ones you wanted to give to. When someone came to your home, you knew she or he was bearing a special gift and we didn't know who was going to receive.

The expectations were mysteriously exciting, as we tried to guess who was next and scary too just in case our gift didn't match to the ones received.

I remember Mialisa came to our home carrying her gift. She shyly handed it to my aunt and my aunt started to laugh as she extended her hand to take the gift.

I don't remember what the gift was but I do remember my aunt giving away her prized washed jars to Mialisa. Each Christmas I see those shiny jars.

Each Christmas is a memory building event. Not too long ago, when our girls were little, we were touched by an angel, a Christmas angel, as we are each year, but this one was mysterious and up to today, we don't know where the gifts came from.

One Christmas morning, my husband Bob went outside to get something and on the door knob, he found gifts in a beautiful bag.

Every gift was beautifully hand crafted and especially made to each one of us, all seven of us! Ever since that, I think of that special Christmas each year, along with my Aunt Bateeta's shiny jars.

May your Christmas be a memorable one and it will become very special years from now. It may look a very ordinary one now, but years from now, it will be a very special memory.

We celebrate Christmas because a little baby was born so long ago in a far away land. Merry Christmas everyone!

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