Though Greenland has been home-ruled since 1979, on June 21, 2009, the Danish government made steps toward granting Greenland full independence. In a 2008 referendum, 76% of the 58,000 residents of the sparsely populated island voted for self-rule and the Danish government has been handing over control of services to the local government and making symbolic changes, like changing the official language to Kalaallisut (the Inuit language of most Greenlanders) and renaming the country Naalakkersuisut.
Every schoolchild has at least a vague awareness of Greenland, that conspicuously white island (decidedly not green) near the top of most globes. According to Eiríks saga rauða (the saga of Eric the Red) and Íslendingabók (the book of Icelanders), the name was chosen to attract settlement by promoting Greenland as an attractive place to live.
Although part of the North American Tectonic plate, Eurocentric models of North American discovery either credit Columbus or Bjarni Herjólfsson with discovering the New World when they sighted the Caribbean and Canada, respectively. As Wikipedia's entry on the Norwegian explorer states, "Bjarni is believed to be the first European to see North America," which he did in the summer of 986 on the way to visit his parents in Greenland, and island which is itself part of North America. So Europeans (including Herjólfsson’s parents) had already "discovered" Greenland, although many before have quite reasonably questioned one's ability to discover something already known for thousands of years to many people.
Amongst the Sami, midwinter was an occasion for honoring the goddess Beiwe, who was associated with the sun, fertility and sanity. She reportedly traversed the sky in a craft made of reindeer bones accompanied by her daughter, Beiwe-Neia. Beiwe's followers sacrificed white female animals and smeared their doorposts with butter for Beiwe to munch on during her journey.
Quit fighting, you! At least you'll be out of this blasted cold soon! Plus, I've still got to smear some butter.
Amongst the Germanic peoples to their south, Juletid referred to their take on midwinter festivities. By the late Viking Age the word "Yule" had come to refer to a pan-European bricolage of midwinter observances.
Real Vikings don't use horns (on their helmets)
Yule logs were lit to honor Thor. The feasting would continue until the fires had burned out. Although
in 960, Norwegian King Håkon signed into law that Jul (Yule) was to be moved from the solstice to December 25, to align it with Jesus' birthday party; Icelanders continued to keep it real until the Reformation reached them and ended the fun.