Some years we spend Christmas in the Lower 48. Most years we spend Christmas in the village. Those are my favorite years. I love Christmas in Brevig Mission.
Festivities begin with Levi's brother's birthday on December 23rd. Levi has lots of cousins. This is as many of them as we could fit on one couch.
Note to readers: the birthday boy is the left-most boy in a grey shirt.
My brother Tom was lucky enough to spend Christmas in Brevig Mission with us. Levi's cousins accepted him into the family immediately. 🙂 It didn't hurt that one of the older cousins plugged his phone into a speaker/disco ball for an impromptu dance party. Tom is an amazing dancer. Even with multiple children hanging off of him.
The first official Brevig Mission event is the Christmas Eve church service. This year's service was held at the school gym. While we waited for Pastor Brian to arrive, Tom made more friends.
After the service people pass out Christmas presents. I don't have any pictures of that because it's kind of crazy, and I was too busy living in the moment to take pictures.
Growing up, one of my family's favorite Christmas traditions was a Cheese and Cracker Party held on Christmas Eve. It's basically an appetizer party. In Brevig Mission we have the party on a day that's NOT Christmas Eve because of the church service. This year the party was on December 26th.
This picture shows the exact same stuff as the picture above. It was just so artistically shot by my brother Tom that I had to include it. You're welcome, Tom.
The counter space not covered with cheese, crackers, and sausage was covered with Artichoke Spinach Dip and Spiced Cider. This was my first time using canned spinach in the dip. It totally worked.
The crown jewel of the Cheese and Cracker Party this year was the hot chocolate bar. A large crock pot full of homemade hot chocolate plus a variety of flavoring syrups, toppings, and marshmallows...mmmmmmm.....
Note to readers: credit for the styling of the hot chocolate bar goes to Tom, who arranged things while I was frantically dealing with other aspects of the party. He's a man of many talents.
The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is filled with Inupiaq games, food, raffles, and fun. Tom continued to make friends and bond with the children of Brevig Mission.
In recent years, the community has added silly games to the nightly agendas. This game had us passing a water bottle with our feet while lying on the floor. I am the one in the tie-dyed shirt (keeping it classy). I wasn't sure I was flexible enough to reach my legs over my head, but I totally pulled it off, as evidenced by the action shots above.
One of the best parts of Christmas Week is the food! People around town make and bring delicious treats to sell at the gym. Both of my kids love popcorn balls (Levi loves them so much he prefers to eat them instead of smile for pictures...), and Kaitlyn is always first in line to buy California rolls.
I like popcorn balls and California rolls too, but my real favorites are maple bars and Eskimo salad. This cup of Eskimo salad had dry fish, seal, and seal oil mixed in with the cabbage and carrots. Delicious!
Note to readers: Please appreciate my mad selfie skills while holding a maple bar. Also appreciate Kaitlyn's facial expression as she photobombs my selfie.
School concessions sells slushies every night too. According to Kaitlyn and Levi, it's not worth going to the gym if we don't get a slushie...
Christmas Week games last for hours every night, so there's plenty of time for hanging out with family. Kaitlyn spent some time with her Gram and Taata (short for Ataata, which is Inupiaq for grandpa).
Levi spent time with his Gram, brother, and cousins too. It's amazing how long that kid will sit still if he's playing with someone's phone...
My favorite night is New Year's Eve. During the rest of the week the Inupiaq games are played by boys and men. On New Year's Eve the girls and women get to play. I challenged one of my eighth grade students at the Pancake Flip (also known as Inupiaq Leg Wrestling).
It ended in bitter defeat for me. Even though I tried really hard. Notice the laughs of the people around me.
The women played a dress-up relay race too. I was taking a child potty when this game started, or I totally would have been out there dancing in a mask.
There was Inupiaq Dancing in the School Commons. (Check out the walrus mural!) Levi's Papa is front and center, his mom is to the left in the lime green kuspuk, and his auntie on the far left in the black sweatshirt.
A close-up of the Inupiaq drummers.
Note to readers: the spray bottle is to keep the drums moist.
Another important thing happening on NYE is raffle tickets turning into confetti. All of the raffle tickets from the week are saved so kids can tear them up into little pieces on New Year's Eve...
where they're used as confetti at midnight!
The confetti gets tossed, picked up off of the ground, and tossed again.
While the confetti is tossed around, the whole community walks around the gym, hugs each other, and offers Happy New Year wishes. This is the best part of the entire year in Brevig Mission. Everyone's hearts are open and full. One of the elders told me she loved me, and her husband said I was a good teacher. Those are some of the most meaningful compliments I've ever received, and tears spring to my eyes just remembering.
It's a beautiful, lovely mess of chaos. These little guys attempted to clean up, but the confetti kept raining down. Levi's brother found it hilarious to shove confetti down my shirt. Kaitlyn got in on the action, and when I got home, I had confetti All. Over. My. Body.
It's a long week between Christmas and New Year's Day, but it's a good week. It leaves everyone feeling a little bit like Levi by the end: exhausted. And every time, it reminds me why I love Christmas in Brevig Mission.