Monday, October 29, 2007

Puuqtaluk Approaches

As far as I'm concerned, nothing could be more of an Arctic Anomaly than the marriage of an ancient Eskimo amusement with a comparatively contemporary European celebration. Most of us are familiar with the more benign elements of Halloween: painted faces, colorful costumes, and the fevered race for sugary treats. Although the climate of the Far North does present a challenge at times, the Inupiat (young and old) have embraced this holiday with incredible zeal and have even gone a step further by incorporating a traditional game into the festivities.

On Halloween night, after trick-or-treaters have safely stowed their treasures at home, everyone gathers at the community center. The competition that follows is based on an ancient Inuit game that is much older than the earliest memories of any elder. Costumed participants take turns dancing to music each hoping to elicit the most uproarious laughter from the audience. Only the silliest and most absurd dancers win a prize. Although the costumes can be slightly unnerving, the activity isn’t intended to frighten. The night is centered on one of the most cherished of Inupiat values…laughter.

The Inupiaq language dictionary defines Puuqtaluk, quite simply, as the celebration of Halloween. After considerable inquiries on the subject, I am faced with the dissatisfying conclusion that no one really knows how or when Puuqtaluk and Halloween initially tied the knot. But, in spite of its dubious origins, the union does appear to be a happy one.

Since Puuqtaluk is still a couple of days away, I'll share a few photos of Halloween past and follow up with photos of this year's competition later in the week. You'll find that the activities, as well as the smiles, are quite familiar and provide something of a bridge between past and present, old and new, and two cultures that have more in common than one might think.


Click on any photo for a larger image or to see more.

Painted faces can't hide the smiles of these not-so-frightening beauties. Of course, the face paint only stayed on about thirty minutes before they started complaining that it was "itchy" and washed it off. But, it was a lot of fun while it lasted.

Pumpkin carving is a favorite among the activities at school. Pumpkins are flown in a few days prior to Halloween. I wouldn't even venture a guess at what expense. But, as you can see, the boys pictured are having a blast cleaning the slimy "guts" out of their pumpkin. It's hard to nail down exactly how much a great experience is worth.
Pumpkins 1

Most classes save the seeds and bake them with lots of seasoning. It's become a tasty tradition that everyone looks forward to.
Pumpkins 2

Last year, the fifth and sixth grade class made pies with their pumpkins. They proudly shared the pies with the elders who visited at lunch time.
Pumpkin Pies-06

These kindergarten students excitedly display their entry in the pumpkin carving contest. I'm pretty sure their teacher controlled the knife while the students had a good time adding feathers to their creation.
More Sillies


Rose Mary said...

Looks like everyone is having fun. Do you have photos of the winners of the costume/dancing competion? Cader would love to be there for that. He plans on dressing up as an "Egyptian Mummy". They have been studying about Egytian slaves in school, so ...

Peggy said...

Fun pictures! Takes me back to when I was a kid at Halloween!

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Rose Mary. I've been looking for pictures of past winners, but no luck so far. I'm afraid they may have been cleaned off my computer over the summer. Hopefully, I backed up my photos before they did that. We'll see. I can't wait to see Cader in his Egyptian costume. I'm sure he'll look quite regal! :)

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Peggy! Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you. It IS a lot of fun and it DOES bring back the excitement of childhood. I think I probably enjoy some of the activities as much as the kids do. Although cleaning up the mess and dealing with sugar-overload often feels more like a trick than a treat! :)

Johnny said...

Great pix. You really do capture the enthusiasm of the children. Request from a reading teacher...
Please put the phonetic pronunciation of the Inupiat words.
Have a great Halloween/Puuqtaluk! :)

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Johnny. Sorry that I didn't include a pronunciation guide. :)

puuk- (rhymes with spook except there is a slight separation between the u's...almost two syllables)

ta-(rhymes with "duh"...couldn't think of anything else!)

luk-(rhymes with syllable)

So, does that help? Clear as mud?

As always, thanks for visiting and for taking the time to comment!

Dawn said...

It would be great if you could pose everybody so we can see how much they have grown in the last year. Your blog brings nothing but good memories of Atqasuk. I sure miss those kids! Thanks Kimberlee.

Johnny said...

Thank you reading teacher...I had fun practicing!!!!Puuqtaluk to you!!
Have fun at the celebration...Hope you participate and have someone take your picture dancing away!!!

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Dawn! I'm sure the kids would love to see you again too...not to mention, Sidney. :) Tonight is the "big" night around here. It's only five thirty and I've already give out ALL my candy (trick-or-treating started at about 4 o'clock)!

Puuqtaluk starts at 6:00. The kids in my class are the MOST enthusiastic about the competition. That's pretty funny because they are, by far, the least impressive dancers. But that doesn't stop them from having fun! :) I really hope it's not too dark in the community center to get decent pictures. I'll be posting some in the next few days.

Thanks for stopping by! It's great to hear from you.

Kimberlee said...

Johnny, I'm glad to hear that you have been practicing your Inupiaq! You never know when that might come in handy! :)

I won't be dancing tonight. I did it last year and won second place. It was a lot of fun, but this year I'll just take pictures. If I can find my photo from last year, I'll share it with the puuqtaluk photos I take tonight. I'm afraid it might have been erased from my computer over the summer. :(