Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu
Greenland National Museum & Archives


Greenlandic Christmas

The Christmas season has many Christian traditions that vary from place to place in terms of traditional food and other local customs. Church attendance is, however, common and for many families an important part of Christmas. Traditionally December 24th is dedicated to children, December 25th – the main day of Christmas – to adults and the elderly, and December 26th to young people, ending with a dance. Christmas starts on Advent Sunday and ends on Epiphany (January 6th).

Below is a description of some of the Christmas traditions in Upernavik:


On the last working day before Advent Sunday Christmas stars are lit in the windows of all the town’s workplaces.


On Advent Sunday people start decorating their homes for Christmas - as a minimum lighting Christmas stars. In recent years Christmas decorations have increased so now there are Christmas stars and fairy lights on the streets, in windows, and covering houses. This is also the night that people decorate indoors with paper chains, window decorations and elf landscapes according to their tastes and preferences. On Advent Sunday the lights on the Christmas tree in the main square are also lit, after which a representative from the local authority holds a short speech and one of the town choirs sings hymns. After that a truck arrives with two elves on the back and bags of goodies for all households with children under 15. 


During December institutions like schools, kindergartens and workplaces host events where people gather to make cutout Christmas decorations. Workplaces also host Christmas lunches for their staff.


On December 13th there are Santa Lucia processions in schools and kindergartens. This is also when children from schools and kindergartens visit the old people’s home.

December 24th (joorli or joorliaraq) starts at night, when people gather in the churchyard at midnight and sing hymns in memory of the dead. Candles are lit on many of the graves. Back home Christmas trees are decorated and presents are put under the tree. They are opened the next morning, after people have danced around the tree. From around noon on December 24th children go from house to house singing. When the door is opened they are given candy and baked Christmas goods.  


December 25th (joorlerujutsuaq) is the traditional day for families to visit each other. Children continue to go from door to door singing, and in the evening adults do the same.


Like the day before on December 26th (joorlip nakkataa) people visit family and friends. There is also a party in the village hall attended by many of the young people in town.

On the last working day before New Year the town’s workplaces have fireworks to celebrate the last working day of the year and the new year to come.

From noon on December 31st (ukiutoqaq) children again go from door to door lighting firecrackers (‘shooting’) and are given candy and small fireworks. Among family and friends adults do the same, and are also given gifts. People can even ‘shoot’ from town to town, exchanging gifts with friends and family elsewhere. At 8pm the New Year in Denmark is celebrated with fireworks. At midnight there are New Year fireworks for Greenland.


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