Christmas Day is a day of joy and laughter and being together, except for when it isn't. One Yellowknife chef is doing his best to help residents cope with that.
For many people, the holidays can be a time of stress about financial realities, of loneliness, homesickness, and heartbreak. With this in mind, chef Robin Wasicuna invites anyone who wants and needs it to come together over Christmas dinner on Tuesday.
"A lot of people have a great time and really enjoy the holidays, but they don't realize that there's a good portion of our society that is really suffering during the holidays," he said. "And it's not necessarily financially based. Some people are just alone and don't have anybody to celebrate with, and that can be just as bad as being broke."
Wasicuna is putting on a free dinner from 1pm to 5pm at Yellowknife's Northern United Place on Christmas Day. Anyone who comes will get a full-service dinner, as opposed to a buffet, with service at their table.
"The dinner is open to absolutely anybody who wants to show up, it doesn't matter what your situation is," Wasicuna said. People can bring any guests they like. "It's just about community, really, more than anything."
Having experienced a few rough, lonely Christmases when he was younger, Wasicuna said he doesn't want anyone to go through the holidays alone.
Financial inequality also hits home for him during the holidays, when not all children may receive the same gifts.
"There's these kinds of stresses put on children too, and people don't really see that," he said. "To me it's just a time when we should be together, more than anything else ... just celebrating that. Not being alone."
Wasicuna has been cooking turkeys for the past few days. More than a dozen will be served on Wednesday with potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Bread rolls and 15 homemade pies are part of the feast thanks to community members who donated the goods.
Wasicuna formerly operated Twin Pine Diner, which closed near the start of the year. There, he and his crew organized a similar Christmas dinner last year. This year, without a restaurant space, Wasicuna put the call out for somewhere to host another feast.
Within a week, not only did he have a venue but also plenty of helping hands, food, and an array of gifts for children and adults. Friends from Yellowknife's restaurant industry spent Tuesday helping with the cooking. "Pretty amazing," Wasicuna said.
Wasicuna stressed that even though he is organizing the dinner, the focus should not be on him. "This is about the people that we're serving food to. And the people that are going to be alone and the people that are affected this time of year."