How do the Greenlanders actually celebrate Christmas? In many ways just as they do in Germany but then a little different. Christmas is also a very festive celebration in Greenland. But what does this mean?
What is custom and tradition on the largest island in the world? In addition to many candles, the characteristic red-orange poinsettias decorate every home, the so-called Herrnhut Stars. They are a legacy of the German Moravian missionaries who came to Greenland in the 18th century.
In all windows, whether from private houses or public buildings hang these special Moravian stars and form a true sea of lights. In the cities, the candles on the Christmas tree are lit on the first Sunday of Advent. Most families now decorate their homes, drink mulled wine and enjoy the first Christmas cookies. Where does the Christmas tree come from in the rather barren Greenland? It has to be ordered long in advance and will then be delivered by ship from Europe. When the candles shine for the first time, they celebrate: everyone gathers around the tree and sings.
Children’s Christmas in the light of the Northern Lights Part of the Greenlandic Christmas tradition is that children, and especially in the settlements, also pull and sing from one to the other in their homes from house to house. For that, they are generously rewarded by the residents with Christmas cookies. In schools and leisure homes, the Lucia procession on December 13 is a big event. Children wear wreaths on their heads, candles in their hands and sing songs of St. Lucy. Often there is a bright northern light on the Christmas sky above the island. Christmas is a festival of lights in Greenland.
Christmas tree and carols
Songs, singing together and choir singing are an important part of Greenlandic Christmas, whether in the church, on the radio or on television, everywhere, the Christmas Psalms or Christmas music sound. Even from the church pews, there are often two or three voices singing, as many Greenlanders often go to church and are experienced singers. Christmas Eve is celebrated on December 24th with a dance around the Christmas tree, but some children get their presents already in the morning.
The Christmas holidays are also spent by the Greenlanders together with their family and friends. Often, they organize spontaneous coffee parties and family meals among themselves. For many, however, Christmas is only complete when they have attended a Christmas service and the compulsory psalm “Guuterput” (Our God) is heard. It usually leaves no eyes dry. The churches are packed in all cities and settlements over the Christmas holidays and the sermons are delivered in both Greenlandic and Danish. The songs also sound in both languages.
Always white Christmas
Nobody worries about Green Christmas in Greenland. Every year there is snow on the feast days! There is one more question left: What is there to eat that is very different? On Christmas Eve, some roast pork is on the menu, others prefer Greenland lamb, musk ox or reindeer, razorbill or ptarmigan. In the south of Greenland lamb is very popular, in the north the reindeer is the favorite.
In Greenland, it is customary to take off the poinsettias and the other Christmas decorations on January 6, on Epiphany. Until then, the exclamation applies: “Juullimi Pilluarit” (Merry Christmas)!