Christmas is particularly festive in Greenland. It is celebrated with many candles and an abundance of characteristic, red-orange Christmas stars that can be seen in almost all the windows.
In the towns, the candles are lit on the Christmas trees on the first Sunday of Advent, which gives rise to extra cosiness for most of the families with the making of Christmas decorations, food and Christmas sweets.
In most towns a Christmas tree is erected, which has been ordered a while ago and sailed up from Europe. Then you gather together when the Christmas tree is lit for the first time and songs are sung.
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You gather together when the Christmas tree is lit for the first time and songs are sung.
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It is ordinary custom for children – as well as the slightly older ones in the settlements especially – to sing in front of the town’s houses on Christmas Eve and then be generously rewarded with Christmas sweets by the residents. Often, the Greenlandic Christmas sky is also filled with the beautiful northern lights, so in many ways you can call Christmas the festivity of light in Greenland. The St. Lucia parade on 13 December, where children wearing wreaths on their heads and holding candles sing about Saint Lucia, is very popular at schools and after-school centres. Christmas is celebrated on 24 December with dancing around the Christmas tree, but some children have already received their gifts early in the morning.
Singing, community singing and choral singing are a large part of Christmas in Greenland, whether it’s in a church or on the radio and TV, you listen to the Christmas carols and Christmas music. In the churches, two or three-part voice songs are often heard from the church pews as many Greenlanders are frequent church-goers and singers.The Christmas days are spent on time together with the family and friends and many small, spontaneous ‘kaffemikkers‘ are held here and there in competition with the family Christmas lunches. For many, Christmas is not complete without participating in a Christmas service and this is where one of the psalms ‘Guuterput’ (Our God) is mandatory and where there is rarely a dry eye afterwards.
Christmas is always white in Greenland. Every single year. The churches in all towns and settlements are full to the brim on the Christmas days and sermons are held, psalms are sung in both Greenlandic and Danish. In some homes, the Christmas dinner menu is roast pork and duck, while others prefer Greenland lamb, musk or reindeer, razorbill and grouse, all depending on where on Greenland you live – lamb in the south, reindeer in the north.
The tradition in Greenland is that Christmas stars and other Christmas decorations are only removed on 6 January, the Twelfth Night. Here, the tradition is also to dress up.
But before then, the expression ’Juullimi Pilluarit’ is heard innumerable times everywhere in Greenland – it means ‘Merry Christmas’.