Arctic Circle Race
Created in 1998, it is the world’s toughest cross-country ski race. More than 100 skiers from around the world participate in the three-day race over a distance of 160 km (or 100 miles). They compete in the beautiful snow-scape, spending two nights in tents in the middle of the Arctic wilderness, at as low as -30ºC (or -22ºF). Sisimiut hosts the race in every April, and sled-dogs are accompanied for the safety. www.acr.gl
Greenlanders farewell to the white Arctic winter with a three-day dogsled trip, which would be the last one in the year. The dogsled trip, usually held in April, is a long-standing tradition in Illicit. They follow the route that Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen took for training prior to his long expeditions in Greenland almost 100 years ago.
About 100 sleds with twice as many people and 10 times as many sled dogs ride through the breathtaking scenery. The harsh Arctic sun scorches for 16 hours a day during this period. No wonder the trip is called palerfik, which means “the place where you get sunburn.”
Polar Circle Marathon
Held in September/October, Polar Circle Marathon is one of the most extreme marathons in the world. The marathon begins at the inland ice-cap near Kangerlussuaq, and participants will be running on ice sheets as well as gravel road, passing frozen lakes and Arctic desert where musk oxen and reindeer live. Due to the uneven and different surface of the ground, hilly route, and fluctuating temperature, it usually takes at least 25% longer than the normal marathon time. www.polar-circle-marathon.com
This city marathon began in 1990 and every year more international runners participate in it. Runners will pass beautiful houses as old as 30 years near the colonial harbour, and the new district of Qinngorput, which is designed by Arctic architecture. The route is 21 km (or 13 miles), thus runners should make the circuit twice to complete. Nuuk marathon is challenging mainly due to the weather. It is held in August, which is still summer, but runners should still be prepared for wind, rain, and single-digit temperatures in Celsius. The finishing time is usually 15% slower than other city marathons. www.marathon.gl
The National Day was introduced in 1983 as one of the Home Rule’s traditions to express the country’s identity. June 21 is just a perfect day to celebrate the national and cultural values together as it is the longest day of the year. Every town and settlement in the country holds a festival.
People are wearing national costumes and celebrations consist of morning songs, speeches, church service, kaffemik and local entertainment such as music, folk dancing, displays of kayaking skills, and many more. Museums and cultural centres also hold special events or exhibitions to celebrate the day.
Christmas is a particularly festive occasion in Greenland as 99% of the population is Christian. Every window of houses and public buildings are decorated with red-orange Christmas stars and lots of candles. The lights on Christmas trees are switched on on the first Sunday in Advent and illuminate through Jan. 6, or the twelfth night, when Christmas stars and other decorations are taken off. On Christmas Eve, children visit houses in town, sing in front of them, and often receive Christmas goodies.
New Year is celebrated in the same way as in most other parts of the world, with good food, champagne, fireworks, and families. But there’s one thing different. New Year is celebrated twice a day: Once at 8 p.m. which falls on the midnight in Denmark, and then at the actual midnight in Greenland. It is because many have relatives, friends in Denmark. On both occasions the sky and the snow-covered landscapes are illuminated by spectacular and colourful fireworks.
Greenland has its own version of Halloween, called Mitaartut, on January 6. It is a Greenlandic tradition, not a holiday, but schools close early. Children in costumes and ghost-like make-ups visit houses in the evening to sing and dance in front them, and receive candies. People guess who the children are under the costume.
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