Even Nunavut’s long and dark winters never stop the steady flow of festivals in Canada’s youngest territory. Nunavut holidays include the communities celebrating their own ‘hamlet days,’ most of which take place between April and May. At least seven Nunavut communities also mark the territory’s literal breaking of the ice with May fishing derbies and ring in the holiday season with Christmas games.
Tesoro Iron Dog Snowmobile Race
Mid-February sees two-man teams depart on two separate snowmobiles near Anchorage and then Fairbanks, a journey about 2,000 miles in a race that is among the hardest and longest on the planet. The event, which has been running since 1984, follows the Iditarod Trail for the first leg to Nome. Participants face challenging winter conditions as they traverse rugged, isolated areas of wilderness.
Return of the Sun
During the middle of January, Igloolik celebrates the re-emergence of the sun following several weeks of total darkness. Many Inuit consider this celebration more important than New Year’s Day as they traditionally celebrated the return of the light when they had enough food to last until spring. Today, this Nunavut festival is a five-day extravaganza filled with igloo building, dog sledding, and talent and fashion shows. Artcirq, Igloolik’s own circus troupe, close the festival with an unforgettable performance.
Toonik Tyme Festival
Each April, Iqaluit has celebrated the long-awaited return of spring with this week-long festival filled with dog sleds, snowmobile races, and traditional Inuit sporting competitions. From the ancient tradition of igloo building and seal skinning to the more modern Iqaluit Fear Factor and North of 60 Idol competition, this festival has something to offer all ages and visitors. Some of Iqaluit’s finest artists show off their work at the craft fair.
Kugluktuk Nattiq Frolics
The western Nunavut municipality of Kugluktuk welcomes back spring in its own way during this mid-April festival. Festivities kick off with a parade and continue with traditional dress competitions, bingo, a bazaar, and a monster poker rally. However, sporting events such as pond hockey, archery, snowmobile races, a fishing derby, and even games for elders are this week-long festival’s real highlights.
Just over a week after Canada Day, Nunavut celebrates its own independence on July 9, the day Canada’s Parliament passed the law establishing Nunavut a separate territory. Although not everyone has the day off from work on this public holiday, everyone finds a way to celebrate the historic day. Each community has its own traditions, but most include new government policy announcements, history competitions, and traditional games and dancing. Many also serve large breakfasts or traditional Inuit foods like barbecued muskox burgers.
Nunavut Arts Festival
This 11-day celebration of Nunavut’s strong arts community begins at the end of June and lasts well into July. Each of Nunavut’s 26 incorporated communities chooses their most talented artist to represent them at this lively event filled with music, theater performances, and exhibits. Many artists hold workshops on making jewelry, silkscreen products, films, and other creative endeavors.
Northwest Passage Marathon
Only the strongest and best-trained marathoners should attempt this 34-mile trek across some of Somerset Island’s roughest terrain. North America’s northernmost marathon takes place between July and August and takes runners past ancient pebbly beaches along the famed Northwest Passage. Runners frequently spot floating icebergs, seals, beluga whales, and muskox as they try to conquer one of the world’s most challenging marathons, which include a knee-deep wade through the Marie River. Ancient inukshuks (stone cairns in the shape of a human) help mark the trail.
Inummarit Music Festival
Each September, the southern Nunavut community of Arviat hosts one of the territory’s liveliest musical celebrations at the Mark Kalluak Hall. Visitors and residents alike enjoy these four days of music and entertainment.