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25 December, 2000

Christmas Day

Christmas day at the South Pole is one of the few observed holidays here. Almost everyone gets the day off, and everyone takes time to have fun. Some people went sledding, there was a barbershop quartet that went out to the pole to sing "Išll be home for Christmas", and the AST/RO group got together and played bridge all evening. There are also a few Christmas traditions- most of the day was slated for these.

Every year, veterans who are at the South Pole on Christmas parcticipate in a flag raising ceremony. This started at 9am in the galley, with veterans signing a POW flag. After putting on our parkas, the veterans and other interested people went outside. There, the American flag and a POW flag were attached to a crane, and raised above the South Pole marker.

At 10am, almost everyone on the station went outside to parcticipate in the annual race around the world. A 0.75 mile circular track was created, circling the south pole, with the race being three laps around. There were walkers, runners, skiers, bikers, snowmobilers, people sitting on couches pulled by snowmobiles or snow-equipped heavy-duty tractors, or people on skis or snow boards being pulled along by these vehicles. The winner of the race (vehicles and skiers not included) finished in 17 minutes, with the walkers finishing after about 30 minutes.

And they're off! The bag piper on the right sent the racers on their way.

One of the smaller tractors pulls Santa, and others, around the world.

Christmas afternoon, we had a gift exchange. Everyone who wants to parcticipate brings a gift, puts in on a table and takes a number. The first person whose number is called takes a gift from the table and unwraps it. The second person has a choice: take a gift from the table, or steal the gift that the first person unwrapped. Each person can either take a gift from the table, or steal a previously unwrapped gift. In previous years, this process has taken many hours, with some presents being stolen many times, so the rules were changed slightly last year: each gift can be stolen no more than three times. This year, there were about 70 people parcticipating, and the process took about an hour and a half. This is in stark contrast to last year, when there were 170 people parcticipating and the process took 4.5 hours. In this picture, we see someone opening a gift wrapped in duct tape. Since most people don't bring wrapping paper, the gifts are wrapped in everything from scrap paper to bubble wrap.

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