A Long Winter
In Northern lands near the top of the world Christmas comes in the wintertime. In Southern lands near the bottom of the world it is different. There Christmas comes in summer.
In June, July, and August, Northern children swim and picnic and walk barefoot
in the woods. But during these very same months, Southern Hemisphere children ride sleds and skate and wear gloves every day. For these children summer doesn’t come until December and Christmas itself often comes on the hottest day of the year.
There is, of course a scientific explanation for this strange state of affairs and you have probably heard this explanation and accepted it as very properly, you should.
But some folk say there is another reason, not at all scientific, why December comes in summer near the South Pole while at the same time coming in the winter at the North Pole. If you can believe these folk it is all because of Santa Claus and Oonik, the Eskimo boy and the way the two of them long ago tamed the Ice King of the North.
Here is the story they tell:
Once upon a time, in a far away Northern land, there lived a little Eskimo boy named Oonik. He lived with his family in an igloo on the edge of the Artic Sea.
Nearby there were eight other igloos where other families lived. Together they formed an Eskimo Village.
The Eskimos were hunters. In the winter they hunted seal and walrus and polar bear. In the summer, when their snow houses melted and grass covered the land they hunted reindeer and rabbit and birds.
One year it seemed that the winter was colder than anyone could ever remember. The icy winds blew all the time and the snow drifted high over the village. Sometimes, when Oonik and his father returned home from hunting they had trouble finding the door to their own home because it was buried in new fallen snow.
And sometimes the cold was so intense that all the villagers stayed in their snow houses for weeks at a time.
The worst part of it was that the hunting was poor for even the seal and the polar bear did not wish to come out in such weather. So food ran low in the village and Oonik was often luck to have even one hunk of frozen seal blubber as his only meal of the day.
One day as the family sat together in the igloo Oonik’s father said, “The days are beginning to be longer and the spring moon shines in the sky”. That means winter is over and soon the ice will melt, birds will fly and flowers will grow.
“And we will trail reindeer in the hills!” cried Oonik rolling over and throwing his arms around his dog, Keotuk.
I can hardly wait, “said his sister Popik. “Oh, it will be good to live in our summer tents and hunt for bird eggs in the grass!”
“And we will be warm again!” cried their mother, “Oh, I will be glad when this miserable winter is gone!”
But weeks went by and May came and June and even July passed by and still the icy winds blew and the snow piled higher and even the hunter’s sleds froze to the ice, and it was a job to move them at all.
Then the Eskimos were truly frightened. They went to the igloo of Miski, the wise man of the village.
“What has happened?” they cried. “Why has summer not come?”
Old Miski sucked in his ancient cheeks and stared at the ground, then he said, “The ice king of the North is very angry. To placate him we just have a festival in his honor. Then the icy winds will stop and summer will come to Eskimo land.”