Christmas in Alaska

Aurora Borealis, the colored lights seen in th...

Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

Christmas time, in “Uncle Sam’s Attic,” as it has been called, the glory of the day melts into the grandeur of the night, for at Christmas time, within the Arctic circle, the sun spends the hours below the horizon; there is only a briefperiod when there is even twilight. But what beauty this brief weird light discloses! Mountains buried in snow and ice! The mighty Yukon, as it sweeps past Dawson and Eagle, bound in its win­ter covering of ice so thick that it will be May before it begins to break into gigantic floes, piling them into fantastic heaps as it takes its mighty way toward the Arctic! Men, and a few­pitifully few-women, looking forward with eagerness to the days when the flowers will bloom with lavish profusion by the riverbank! Then the vegetables will attain unbelievable size in the gardens where the soil is rich above the ground-ground that is still frozen so close to the surface that every householder needs only to dig to find a place to keep milk and butter cool.

During the winter of 1899 and 1900, and for a few years later, this glorious Arctic land was sought by men who looked for gold. The Yukon and its tributaries drew them as do mag­nets, for the stream brought down stores of the same precious gold that the Wise Men brought to the Babe of Bethlehem more than nineteen hundred years ago. Few of them thought of their Lord, except at Christmas time, when the minds of many were turned to him as their hearts were made tender by a Christmas celebration in some humble mission station, like that at Eagle, where, on one occasion, a member of a famous New York City choir sang “The Song That Reached My Heart,” with its closing words from John Howard Payne‘s “Home, Sweet Home.” One who was there said: “I never heard anything like the deep pathos and feeling of that song. Though those who heard it were on the banks of the Yukon, far from their homes, they were taken back to the old fireside. The hus­bands and fathers were with their wives and children. The young men were with their mothers, their sisters, their sweet­hearts. When the last cadence of the song died away, when the last chords of the piano had been struck, everybody drew a full breath. There was not an untouched heart, not an unmoistened eye in the whole company.” That Christmas Day was to live long in the memories of scores who then were lifted out of carelessness by thoughts of Christmas celebrations of long ago, and who, before they were to find their way back to civilization, were to wander on into the vast interior of Alaska, among the scores-hundreds-of mountains which lift their snow-clad pinnacles and glacier­strewn peaks far up into the heavens, as if they would seek to live with Him who sent His Son to earth that Christmas morn­ing of long ago.

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