It is a tradition for Santa to visit the field camps in the Dry Valleys and bring mail and packages from town. The head National Science Foundation representative for Antarctica traditionally dresses as Santa, and he has just the grey beard for the job. There are also elves! It is a real treat to get to be an elf, and the roles are reserved for people that have worked at McMurdo station for years but haven’t gotten to see the beautiful Dry Valleys yet. The smiles and looks of awe on their faces really reminded me how lucky I am to have this experience- many people would give a lot to do what I do every day!
This year, 15 people gathered at Lake Hoare for the Christmas weekend and we celebrated the holidays on Dec. 24th. During the day everyone was busy decorating hundreds of gingerbread and sugar cookies using homemade icing of various colors. The big event was the construction of the gingerbread house, complete with stained glass windows, a working chimney and candles inside. After dinner we had the traditional Lake Hoare gift exchange. Everyone who comes for the holidays brings a wrapped present. One person starts the game by picking a present at random and unwrapping it. The next person can either steal the first gift (in which case the first person goes again) or pick another wrapped one. The game proceeds like this until everyone has a gift. This year, gifts ranged from fancy maps of the area to DVDs to chocolate to hand-knitted hats. I happily ended up with some Antarctic hot sauce and matching t-shirt. The assistant station manager, Sandra, strategically stole my gift (a journal I covered with a collage about Antarctica) from another woman late in the game. I would say everyone was happy with the way things ended. The night culminated by transforming the hut into the “Velcro lounge” by securing black fabric over the windows to simulate night. After a dance party, everyone retired to their tents and enjoyed sleeping in the next morning.
The gingerbread house!