Nunavik airmail: Helicopter delivers giant Christmas tree to northern community

Five years ago the community of Kuujjuaq got its first special Christmas tree delivery.

‘You would've been seeing a grown man jumping up and down like a little boy, being all excited,’ says mayor

This year's Christmas tree was delivered by helicopter on Thursday. It's about 14 metres tall, says Mayor Tunu Napartuk. (Alec Gordon/CBC)

It's a really big tree — yet it looks like a tiny, pine-green dot in the sky.

This triangle descends upon the community of Kuujjuaq, Que., like a snowflake — swinging to and fro, slung between the landing skids of a helicopter.

Once it touches the ground, it towers over people at about 14 metres tall.

A triangular shape flies through the sky in Kuujjuaq, Que. (Submitted by Jason Aitchison)

It was exactly five years ago when Kuujjuaq first got its special Christmas delivery.

Mayor Tunu Napartuk says he remembers the day clearly.

"I was there, and I remember exactly the moment and the feeling — the euphoria basically — of seeing from a distance a helicopter coming in, slinging a large tree," said Napartuk.

"If you were there with me, you would've been seeing a grown man jumping up and down like a little boy, being all excited."

Idea wasn't 'so far-fetched'

The idea came from a councillor from a newly formed council back in 2012.

This year's tree stands at about 14 metres tall, according to the mayor. It was delivered Thursday. (Alec Gordon/CBC)

Councillor George Berthe suggested the town get the biggest tree it could find and haul it over by air. 

"It wasn't so far-fetched," said the mayor.

So the newly elected Napartuk sent a couple of local guys out of town to scout out the perfect tree.

"Kuujjuaq is one of the few [Nunavik] communities that has trees readily available in our back yard," said Napartuk.

"They found it right away. And a couple of days later, we asked the helicopter to go pick it up."

But why this particular mode of transportation?

"The only way to access it was to pick it up by helicopter. We don't have a big enough sled to pull by skidoo. Of course we don't have access to it by road, by truck, so the only option was to get it by helicopter," said Napartuk.

"It's not something you see everyday."

People 'just mesmerized'

Napartuk says the Christmas tree drop is becoming a tradition.

After the tree is plopped next to the town hall, it's decorated by city staff using proper equipment, and an angel is placed on top.

The community's Christmas tree lit up in 2014. (Nick Daniel Savard/Facebook)

The town council chooses an individual who's made a contribution to the community, and that person has the honour of lighting the tree — and people are "just mesmerized by it," says Napartuk.

"It doesn't last long but the whole town does come in, and we're out there in minus twenty something [degrees] with the windchill and blowing snow, and we're singing Christmas carols."

Then everyone goes to the town hall and warm up to hot chocolate and one another's company.

That's why the mayor says all the hard work and planning is worthwhile.

"It just really brightens the mood of the community," he said.

"It's something we're really enjoying and we're very proud of."

About the Author

Priscilla Hwang

Priscilla Hwang brings you offbeat and exclusive stories from current affairs. She's worked as a reporter and with CBC's investigative unit. Reach her @prisksh or priscilla.hwang@cbc.ca

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