The Greenlandic Christmas tree: a new Greenlandic tradition?

 

FullSizeRender (2) Instagram photo by: @hannekirkegaard83

A tree grows in Greenland

This year marks the first year that the local forest supplied Christmas trees in Greenland. Unlike the coniferous giants found elsewhere in the world, the trees from Narsarsuaq in South Greenland are diminutive yet cute and fragrant, which South Greenlanders say they prefer over the imported ilk.

All right, ‘local’ has to be taken with a little grain of salt, as these trees were originally transplanted from abroad back in the 1980’s. Spruces from Alaska and Norway, Pine from western USA, and other species from Russia and elsewhere make up Kalaallit Nunaata Orpiuteqarfia, the Greenlandic Arboretum, a true forest.

UAK_Forest Greenlandic Arboretum in Narsarsuaq. Photo by: Kenneth Høegh

Unique Greenlandic scent

Evidently the Greenlandic trees have a scent that suits perfectly to a Greenlander’s nose. Check out this video from the local news about the new trend of Greenlandic Christmas trees. “Tipigi!” is how the clip opens, which is a Greenlandic exclamation when something smells strongly – good strong, in this case.

Fun fact that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but everything to do with celebrating special days – Greenlanders write “Tipigi!” on a friend’s or relative’s Facebook wall the day before their birthday to poke a little fun at them.

Holiday markets, orange stars, and other festivities

Christmas trees aren’t the only way Greenlanders celebrate the holidays. Santa Claus comes by in a red helicopter to visit the children, homemade goods are sold at the holiday market, and people hunker down for hygge in the comfort of their own homes, to name a few. Read more here on Greenland.com!

Juullimi pilluarit ukiortaassamilu! That’s Greenlandic for “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

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Stay In Fashion (and Warm) in Greenland with Qiviut, Muskox Wool

IMG_5129  Kangerlussuaq, 67*N, midday January 2015 (-25*C / -13*F)

How do you stay warm in the Greenland winter? If you’re a tourist, take a tip from the locals. And if you’re a local, you take a tip from the wildlife.

Locals know best

Just like you might follow where the locals go to find the best live music in town, you should note what Greenlanders wear to keep warm.

Of course there are the usual suspects walking around like Canada Goose jackets and Sorel snow boots, but Greenlanders also use a whole host of sustainable locally-sourced animal products as functional, fashionable clothing.

It makes perfect sense, right? These are the very materials that allow Greenland’s wildlife to brave the sub-zero temperatures and icy waters of their Arctic home, and Greenlanders are using their meat and bones for sustenance anyway.

In the north, polar bear fur is common, and sealskin is more and more the image of urban Greenlandic fashion, thanks to the Great Greenland fur house.

But have you heard of muskox wool?

Muskox wool – Greenland’s cashmere

Muskox wool, called qiviut in Greenlandic, is very popular in Greenland for accessories like hats, shawls, and wrist-warmers. It is so fine a material – incredibly warm and soft – and it can even be washed without fear of shrinking. It is the underfur of the muskox, a goat-like animal with thick gnarly horns and an even thicker long coat, that is made into decadent yarn and woven into exquisite pieces. Some of the finest baby clothes I’ve ever seen were made of qiviut.

The best part for tourists is that qiviut is 100% approved for export (unlike polar bear and seal products). Therefore, you can buy up all the qiviut accessories your heart desires. I bet you’ll be the warmest person on the street once you get home! You could also buy the yarn in spools and take it home to the knitter in your life.

Here are my favorite personal qiviut items – a hat handmade and purchased in Kangerlussuaq at the Niviarsiaq Uld shop, and wrist warmers handmade by my colleague’s teenage daughter in Nuuk.

DSCN1112 Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 4.25.06 PM

If you find yourself in Sisimiut one day admiring a woman’s beautifully-woven qiviut scarf, chances are you just might be taking a tip from the local who knows very best.

Read more on Greenland.com about Anita Høegh of Sisimiut – the woman who pioneered the muskox wool industry in Greenland and changed how Greenlanders do warm!