December 24, Christmas Eve Day
Today is an exciting day in the Inupiak village of Kotzebue, Alaska, here in the Arctic Circle. This Inupiaq village considers the Christmas season one of the most important events of the year. Many Inupiaq villagers are devout Christians, including the members of the FRIENDS' CHURCH here.
I am anticipating a wonderful service at the Friend's Church at 5 PM today. For the past two days, Lisa's two children (Solomon and Adam) and I have been helping assemble hundreds of bags full of Christmas candy, apples and oranges (luxuries in this part of the world) and other wonderful treats to give to every one who attends this service, guaranteed to warm the heart. By the time we finished yesterday, we had all helped to assemble 800 bags!
We will be enjoying this wonderful Christmas Eve service among hundred of precious Inupiaq families and children this evening. It will be held in their Native language. We will sing cherished Christmas carols in their Native language. It will be a very joyful and exciting gathering of young and old alike at this happy time of the year.
The Native villagers here make the most beautiful parkas and winter wear imaginable. The church will undoubtably be filled with the people wearing their holiday finest to brighten this season.
Graciously, these Inupiaq invited us to their annual Christmas dinner to be held on Monday at 4 PM. Their traditional foods for the holiday season will be very different from the traditional American diet.
Specialities among the Inupiaq include: smoked salmon, caribou and moose, "muktuk" (whale blubber") bone marrow, and delicious Native baked goods as only the Inupiaq can create here.
One thing I have discovered here, is how loving these people are. I attended a Christmas celebration dinner the other night, and found myself both hugging and being warmly hugged by these people. One elder hugged some children and grandchildren. And then, as she turned around she saw me. She smiled warmly and said, "...and I will hug YOU for Christmas also!" And she did. Warm fuzzies filled my heart and made me feel so special here.
Wonderful elders, men and women and children of Kotzebue, I LOVE you! Keep being warm and wonderful and special. You touch all of our hearts...and especially at Christmas time!
-Pamela Rae Schuffert reporting from Kotzebue, Alaska at Christmas Time