Candies for everyone! Iqaluit's young hunters toss sweets to celebrate 1st harvest

Every New Year's day, hunters young and old get up on a high place and throw candies (and other objects) at a crowd of people in their community. Here's why.

Parlavuut, now known as candy toss, is a celebration of the 1st catch


Franco Buscemi says he's seen everything from oven mitts, combs to candles rain down on a crowd of people in his community every year.

But the most common object of all? Candy.

The ancient tradition is called Parlavuut (meaning to catch something in the air in Inuktitut). Over many years, it has transformed into Iqaluit's annual New Year's Day candy toss.

The community gathers to celebrate hunters young and old who make their first-ever catch — whether it's a lemming (a small rodent) or a polar bear. It's a way to celebrate the harvester, says Buscemi.

"You hear that kind of celebration … at a Stanley Cup parade, or if there's some kind of sports team that wins the tournament or championship," says Buscemi, who was filming the event on Jan. 1.

"It's that kind of energy that I find is in the crowd." 

A crowd of people reach up to catch candies. Parlavuut has become an annual New Year's day candy toss in Iqaluit. (Madeleine Allakariallak/CBC)

Buscemi says the candy toss stems from the practice of sharing harvest.

"Hunters are still the main people that feed people in the territory," he said. 

"So it's still very essential to our community's well being."

Buscemi is also a part-time hunter — he threw candies a few years back.

Adamee Ipeelee was born and raised in Iqaluit. He says the tradition has been around since he was a kid, but in a different form. People did the toss in summer, and the goodies were used clothing or handmade items, because they didn't have candies back then. Sometimes, they would give away large prizes like harpoons and knives.

Ipeelee is now 54-years old, and happily organizing the evolved version of the celebration.

"I was just happy that people and family go out hunting," he said. 

"And let their young people catch their first animals so they learn how to hunt and how to be out on the land."

'I caught a bunny!'

About 10 children and teens celebrated their first harvest this year. One of them was Juan Flaherty-Mike, who caught his first bearded seal.

Jacob Flaherty-Mike, 7, with his first ever harvest. He was one of the few young people who threw candy at the community this year. (Submitted by Inu Flaherty)

"I threw lots of candy and when I did my farthest throw, it went all the way to the end," said the eight-year-old.

"I caught a bunny!" said his seven-year-old brother, Jacob Flaherty-Mike.

"I threw the candies super far."

The boys' mother, Inu Flaherty, was looking up at her boys from the crowd, as sweets flew in the air.

"I was so proud. Like I don't think I've ever been more proud," she said.

"It made me realize, 'Wow, I'm raising hunters, and they're going to provide for me one day.' It was such a proud moment for me."

Flaherty says the family cooked Jacob's rabbit and is making kamiks (or sealskin boots) out of Juan's first harvest.