I’ve mentioned the Greenlandic tradition of the kaffemik before, and it features heavily in my books. In a nutshell, a kaffemik is a celebration open to the whole community in which family, friends, and literally people passing by, can come in and celebrate a person’s birthday, confirmation, or anniversary. Usually the guest gives a small gift to the person being celebrated and then cycles through three tables.
The first table is the savory treats with plenty of fish, frozen narwhal liver, walrus meat, polar bear meat, strips of dried whale meat, delicate strips of dried halibut – Jane’s favourite, and even chunks of blubber. In Uummannaq this was often served on a table in the kitchen, or even outside. In Qaanaaq we often sat on the floor and tucked into the most amazing fresh produce served on flat pieces of cardboard. Often there was a knife and you took turns to cut fresh chunks of raw meat from a freshly caught fish, for example.
I often left Jane at table one while I settled into table two – cakes and coffee! Amazing cakes, and really strong coffee.
Table three was for liqueurs and chocolates. I often thought of this table as the place where the hobbits from Tolkien’s world would fill in the corners. I also once got a call from Jane at work wondering if I had reached the liqueurs yet, and if I hadn’t then I definitely shouldn’t as there had been an emergency and they might need my blood at the hospital.
The rule of thumb is that you can stay seated at a table for as long as you like, but during busy periods at the kaffemik it is polite to move from one table to the next to make room for more guests.
The photo above is from our house in Qaanaaq when Jane celebrated her birthday with a kaffemik. It was kind of a kaffemik-light as we skipped over tables one and three, but the light was the most important part of this kaffemik. February 18th was the day the sun came back! The photo below is a last glimpse of the sun for the brief moment it appeared that day. But from the moment it first returns, the sun sticks around for 30 minutes more every day.
Pilluaritutsi Jane amma Lise!
And it’s just possible that this happened today!