Monday, December 22, 2014

The Tradition, The Dance, The Celebration

A special world wide celebration known as the Winter Solstice is observed for the shortest day of the year occurs on Sunday, December 21, 2014 at approximately 4:30 pm (MDT) or 11:30 pm (UTC) but this is the time that Inuvik, NT (Northwest Territories), Canada marks this date.

But Inuvik does not really pay homage for the Winter Solstice as it has been in complete darkness since December 6th and the sun will not appear again until January 6, 2015 and even on this date it will be just a sliver above the horizon and only for less than an hour. This is when Inuvik celebrates the shortest day of the year. With a massive bonfire lit, dressed in their parkas and fur and standing on the permafrost, the people watch as the skies are once again filled with light.

Situated just above the 68 parallel which is 2 degrees above the Arctic Circle, Inuvik is approximately 100 km (120 miles) from the Beaufort Sea and then another 100 km (120 miles) to reach the Arctic Ocean but these bodies of water can only when travelling on the ice road during the darkest days and nights of the year (or of course through air travel).

There is a long standing tradition from the Inuit people that whistling to the Aurora Boreralis (Northern Lights) is when you can make them dance and come closer to the ground. Mind you, there are many beliefs that the lights are actually walrus' playing soccer with a human head and then all the way to the ghosts of the dead reaching down to take small children away. Which is the truth, only the one with story from their ancestors and then passed onto down to the next generation knows the truth.

So even though the Winter Solstice has passed, Inuvik will continue to stay in the dark for another few weeks but still the days are getting longer and the dark skies are slowly fading away to make room for the sun.

p.s. ~ I lived in Inuvik for just under 7 years and I have on many nights spent time outside in the -30 (-22F) to -40C (-40F) whistling to the lights and watching them dance.