Christmas candy-drop tradition may be coming to an end in Inuit community

In an Inuit community in Northern Quebec, a famed bush pilot has taken on a role similar to that of Santa Claus on Christmas Day.

See Full Article

Every Dec. 25, Johnny May flies his plane low over his hometown of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik -- a village of 2,500 -- dropping presents and candy as he goes.

It's a tradition that started in 1965, and one that 70-year-old May has continued every year since.

"At the beginning I used to do it myself," May told CTVNews.ca. "Mind you the village was much, much smaller, so it didn't take a lot of candy."

The idea of the candy drop has its roots with the Hudson Bay Company, which would send candy to each of its trading outposts around the holidays. May's father, a manager at the George River outpost, would toss candy from a rooftop on Christmas morning.

"After I became a pilot, I thought, it would be kind of fun to try it from an airplane," May said. "It was a hit."

He said the candy drop was originally intended for children. "But now I think the kids are way outnumbered by adults," he said.

"They all try and run in the direction my flight path might be," he said. "It's a lot of fun to watch."

Bush pilot Johnny May did his annual Christmas Candy drop in Kuujjuaq this year. Participate in a candy drop daily at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum until January 4, 2015 http://ow.ly/GxPLr

Posted by Canada Aviation and Space Museum on Monday, December 29, 2014

The presents have also changed over the decades.

The candy is now mixed in with winter parkas and toques that are purchased with donations raised by the town's recreation committee.

May is once again planning to fly his plane, the Pengo Pally, over the northern community this Dec. 25, and the 70-year-old says that this year could be his last.

"I made up my mind a few years ago that if was I fortunate to be in good health and do it for 50 years in a row, that I would make it my last candy drop," he said.

May said he is issued an exemption from Transport Canada to fly his plane low and drop items from the aircraft. But he said officials with the agency have indicated they will not issue an exemption to another pilot.

"So I assume my last candy drop will be the last one with a plane," May said.

He added that he has no doubt the candy drop will continue, but the presents may be dropped from a rooftop instead.

Transport Canada has not responded to CTVNews.ca's request for comment.

Canadian aviation museum honours Kuujjuaq tradition

Whether 2015 marks the final year May takes up the Pengo Pally for the candy drop is not set in stone, as the pilot himself admits that his plans, "are subject to change."

But May's involvement in the Christmas candy drop isn't likely to be forgotten any time soon.

This year the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum published a children's storybook honouring the Christmas tradition called "The Kuujjuaq Christmas Candy Drop."

Candy drop book

An illustration from the children's storybook, "The Kuujjuaq Christmas Candy Drop."

The candy drop is relatively unknown outside of Nunavik, which author Linda Brand said was one of the reasons behind publishing the book.

"(May) is a role model in the North who has a huge heart, and a huge sense of community… this is the Christmas tradition of giving and sharing," Brand said.

The museum partnered with Air Inuit to deliver more than 300 books to every school in Nunavik, Que.

Brand hopes to get the book into every classroom across the Canadian Arctic in order to spread May's story. She said the museum is hoping to partner with Canadian businesses to help print additional copies of the book.

She said May is well-known in Kuujjuaq for the candy drop and through his day job where he responded to search and rescue situations with Medevac.

"Sometimes you have heroes in your community and you don't know until people from the outside tell you," Brand said.

May, however, doesn't consider himself a hero.

"No, no," he said. "Maybe for somebody like Linda from out of town. She thinks of people like myself as a hero. But when we all live together in town, I'm just another person."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Crowds protest against anti-black racism, police impunity in Montreal

    Canada News CTV News
    Protests form across U.S. demanding end to police violence Crowds protest against anti-black racism, police impunity in Montreal Source
  • Tornado warning called in southern Alberta, meteorologists track storm

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- Officials say a tornado alert has been issued in southern Alberta, and a funnel cloud was spotted near Airdrie Sunday afternoon. Environment Canada called a severe thunderstorm bulletin for the area earlier in the day. Source
  • Ottawa pledges millions to promote tourism within Canada amid COVID-19 pandemic

    Canada News CBC News
    Ottawa is earmarking millions of dollars to promote holiday travel inside Canada as it seeks to help the tourism industry weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds announced by Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly on Sunday include $30 million originally intended to attract foreign visitors through the federal tourism marketing agency, Destination Canada. Source
  • 'I didn’t have a voice': Former NHL player Akim Aliu discusses racial divides in hockey

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Former NHL forward Akim Aliu is calling on the league to do more to end the racism that “permeates the culture of hockey” as protests fueled by rage over police mistreatment of African Americans flares in the U.S. Source
  • 85 migrant workers test positive in latest Ontario farm outbreak

    Canada News CBC News
    A farm operation in Norfolk County, south of Simcoe, is the latest agricultural facility in Ontario to declare a COVID-19 outbreak after 85 migrant workers tested positive for the virus. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said Sunday that five workers have been hospitalized and approximately 25 others who tested positive are showing symptoms of the virus. Source
  • 'No justice, no peace': Protests resume in NYC for fourth day

    World News CTV News
    New York City officials were looking for a peaceful way forward as the city entered a fourth day of protests against police brutality that have left police cars burned and led to the arrest of hundreds of people. Source
  • 'No justice, no peace': Protests resume in New York for fourth day

    World News CTV News
    New York City officials were looking for a peaceful way forward as the city entered a fourth day of protests against police brutality that have left police cars burned and led to the arrest of hundreds of people. Source
  • Season's first tropical storm drenches part of Central America

    World News CTV News
    SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR -- The first tropical storm of the Eastern Pacific season drenched parts of Central America on Sunday and officials in El Salvador said at least seven people had died in flooding. President Nayib Bukele decreed a 15-day state of emergency to deal with the rains that began pounding the country on Friday ahead of Tropical Storm Amanda's landfall on Sunday. Source
  • Notre Dame forecourt opens to public after long cleanup

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- Notre Dame Cathedral's forecourt is being opened up to the public for the first time since the devastating fire of April 15 last year. The body overseeing the Gothic structure's restoration issued a statement Sunday saying that the reopening was finally made possible after several deep clean operations took place to remove toxic lead dust from the large forecourt. Source
  • Dispatches from Yosemite: Alone with the bears and beauty

    World News CTV News
    The glacier-carved valleys of Yosemite National Park have been closed to the public for nearly three months and a few dozen lucky kids have had it mostly to themselves. Locked down amid cascading waterfalls and giant sequoias, the kids and their families have passed afternoons hiking empty trails, rafting in the river and walking with wildlife now thriving in the near absence of humans. Source