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

  • Police shoot, kill teenage girl in Columbus, Ohio: report

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Police shot and killed a teenage girl Tuesday afternoon in Columbus just as the verdict was being announced in the trial for the killing of George Floyd. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was at the scene Tuesday night on the city's southeast side, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Source
  • Ontario hospitals hit by COVID-19 transferring record number of patients around province

    Canada News CBC News
    Ontario hospitals are transferring an unprecedented number of patients within the province as the COVID-19 pandemic puts intense pressure on the health-care system. Doctors say the record number of patient transfers is happening as hospitals face a surge in hospitalizations and admissions to their intensive care units in the third wave. Source
  • Raiders get backlash for tweet after conviction of Derek Chauvin

    World News CTV News
    HENDERSON, NEV. -- The Las Vegas Raiders got angry backlash for a tweet the team sent after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The tweet sent by the team's official account on Tuesday said "I CAN BREATHE 4-20-21. Source
  • Seafarers' union demands vaccine plan for 15,000 marine workers after COVID outbreak on Atlantic Huron

    Canada News CBC News
    The union that represents 15,000 Canadian marine workers is demanding the government come up with a plan to vaccinate seafarers after the most recent COVID-19 outbreak on the Atlantic Huron, a Canada Steamship Lines bulk carrier. Source
  • A68, the world's largest iceberg, has finally melted

    World News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- An enormous Antarctic iceberg that became the most well-documented iceberg in history has melted into nothing in the Atlantic Ocean. The 6,000 km² chunk of ice, known as A68, broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017. Source
  • Lawyer shifts legal fight from George Floyd to Pamela Turner

    World News CTV News
    MINNEAPOLIS -- The conviction Tuesday of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin on murder and manslaughter charges for pinning George Floyd's neck with his knee was already drawing renewed attention to the legal fight in the death of another Black American, Pamela Turner. Source
  • Tears and relief sweep intersection where George Floyd died

    World News CTV News
    MINNEAPOLIS -- There was quiet, just for a moment, as hundreds of people standing in the intersection at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue crowded in to listen to the news. "They're announcing the verdict!" someone shouted, calling for silence. Source
  • Silence, then cheers: Relief washes over George Floyd Square

    World News CTV News
    MINNEAPOLIS -- There was quiet, just for a moment, as hundreds of people standing in the intersection at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue crowded in to listen to the news. "They're announcing the verdict!" someone shouted, calling for silence. Source
  • Families, doctors urge Alabama to reject trans treatment ban

    World News CTV News
    MONTGOMERY, ALA. -- Transgender youth, parents and advocates on Tuesday urged the Alabama House of Representatives, as well as the state's governor, to reject legislation that would ban the use of puberty-blockers or hormones to treat transgender minors. Source
  • 'A watershed moment': Canadians react to Derek Chauvin verdict

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canadian politicians, activists and athletes reacted with grief and relief in response to former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction in the death of George Floyd. On Tuesday, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd on May 25, 2020. Source