Supiaq Inuit usher in 2003 with a big bash


Pacific Alaskan Inuit sure know how to start off the new year in style, with their rousing Nuu’ikutaq (Supiaq for “new year program”), a traditional New Year’s celebration that runs from the Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7 to Epiphany, which begins Jan. 18.

But the big “Night of Nuu’ikutaq” bash was reserved for the Russian New Year. According to the Julian Calendar, it fell on Jan. 14 this year.

The Night of the Nuu’ikutaq generally begins slowly and builds to a crescendo as villagers throw out the old and prepare to start their new year with a clean slate, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

The night begins as a masked player portraying New Year walks around with his policeman, or “M.P.” The Old Year, in a bird-beak mask, joins in, followed by 12 women in white who represent every month of the new year.

Three “old ladies” (men disguised as women) portray the last months of the old year, and, wearing burlap skirts, hoods, masks and long cardboard bird beaks, they harass the crowd, teasing, flirting and yelling. This scene is repeated 12 times, once for each month of the year.

The New Year finally hits the Old Year with a paddle, marking the beginning of the end for him and the old ladies. They resist, but they’re dragged out until only one remains.

Then a shot is heard outside the door. The Old Year returns, is dragged away and a second shot rings out. The third shot deals the final blow. Then everyone sings “God Grant You Many Years” and dances a waltz of forgiveness for the old year’s sins.

A shorter version of this New Year’s celebration was recently held at the Anchorage Native Heritage Centre in Anchorage, Alaska.

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