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This Nunavut hamlet is pulling out all the stops for Christmas this year

For a small community, it’s bursting with Christmas spirit.

The hamlet of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, is showing how to do the holidays right this year, with a whole month of activities designed to get everyone involved.

“We knew that this would be a really special year because everybody could come back and do what they love to do, and get together,” said Nadene McMenemy, head of the community’s Christmas committee.

“It’s almost like this year actual Christmas events have returned, and everybody is just looking so forward to it — and we are too. So we decided, let’s pull out all the stops here.”

Kugluktuk is the westernmost community in Nunavut, located north of the Arctic Circle at the mouth of the Coppermine River. It’s home to about 1,400 people, and the winter months can be very cold and very dark. The weather forecast is calling for temperatures below –30 C for most of this week. 

this nunavut hamlet is pulling out all the stops for christmas this year
Kugluktuk, Nunavut. Winters can be very cold and very dark in the community. (Marc Winkler/CBC)

The local Christmas committee has been raising money for months for all of the events and activities, as well as prizes and Christmas hampers. The events include a talent competition, a parade, a square dance, trivia nights, a movie night (Elf) and a community feast on Tuesday night. They’re also bringing up a magician from Edmonton to put on a show.

“We think we’ve power-packed the schedule for this year,” McMenemy said. 

And then there are the Christmas games — a tradition in many Nunavut communities — to be held over several nights, this week and next. That’s when people gather in the community hall for some family-friendly skill-testing events, and a chance to win some prizes.

The talent contest has already happened, with young people posting videos to the Christmas committee’s Facebook page. The winner will be announced at the community feast.

“We fundraise all year to be able to do these things. And we’re pretty proud of our accomplishments this year,” McMenemy said.

Last week, Santa paid a visit — Kugluktuk’s a relatively short trip from the North Pole — for photos with local kids. McMenemy said a record number showed up.

“It was unbelievable. It was, I think, 180 families,” she said.

Even though it feels like a return to pre-pandemic times, McMenemy said they’re still asking people to be cautious, and stay home if they’re feeling sick. Lots of videos will be posted online, she said.

The goal is to make sure nobody is left out. 

“We went with the higher-end prizes, and more prizes and things, to reward people and thank people, and for people to just basically enjoy Christmas because that’s what it’s all about — family and friends, you know?” McMenemy said.

“We’ve got all the lights up on the poles, and the big tree on top of the hamlet, and the Northern [store]’s open ’til 11 — it feels like we’re in the big city!” McMenemy said.

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