Natives Make Christmas Their Own

With the spread of Christianity among some Native Americans in the early 20th century came certain Christmas rituals — trees and presents and jolly old Santa Claus — that were folded into traditional wintertime celebrations…. Some Native Americans put a special spin on Christmas, incorporating traditions and tales that date back ages.” L. Weeks, NPR

Native American Dances of Pojoaque Pueblo are beautiful and spiritual to watch. They are ceremonial in nature, expressing ancient traditions and connections to the earth. Santa Fe Pueblo

Native American Dances of Pojoaque Pueblo are beautiful and spiritual to watch. They are ceremonial in nature, expressing ancient traditions and connections to the earth. Santa Fe Pueblo

Excerpt: A Very Native American Christmas, Linton Weeks, NPR

“The Yale Expositor of St. Clair County, Mich., reported on December 18, 1913 that for certain Sioux dwelling in South Dakota, Christmas and its accoutrements came through government-run schools. In each village, the Sioux collected funds for a feast. One member dressed up as Kris Kringle and made speeches and handed out presents. Native American children, the newspaper noted, were quick to show interest in the Christmas tree.

A Native American family gathers around a Christmas tree in Montana, ca. 1900-1920. Library of Congress

A Native American family gathers around a Christmas tree in Montana, ca. 1900-1920. Library of Congress

The Salish passed down a Christmas story of a great and good man who came among their forefathers and performed miracles of all kinds, and on leaving them said he would return in the form of a large white coyote, They say he has appeared at different times, but has not been seen now for more than 150 years.

Traditional dancing at Christmas NM Pueblos

Traditional dancing at Christmas NM Pueblos

In San Felipe Pueblo, N.M., the 1913 Expositor account pointed out, the holiday celebration among Native Americans living there was a curious mixture of Christian and [Native] customs. Members went to the old mission church in the morning, held a feast at midday and then began a fantastic and ceremonial dance that continues for half a week.

Today, explains Deborah A. Jojola, Curator of Exhibitions at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque – which represents the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico — most of the Pueblo Nations within New Mexico have seasonal cycles for ceremonies and celebrations…On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many of the Pueblos host special masses and dances. The Jemez Pueblo, for example, celebrates with Buffalo Dances on Christmas Eve and early morning on Christmas Day.

A buffalo dancer

A buffalo dancer

The Buffalo Dancers – make their way down from the nearby mesas into the Pueblo bringing the Spirit of Prayer, Song and Dance… In Isleta Pueblo, there is a winter dance held in the St. Augustine Church after the Christmas Eve mass. Many of the festivities are for all ages.

Luminarias @ Jemez Pueblo Mission

Luminarias @ Jemez Pueblo Mission

In virtually all ceremonies, Pueblo children are integral participants. Indian parents rarely, if ever, need a babysitter for traditional ceremonial preparations or actual events.”

Learn more about the Native Pueblos Here

WISHING EVERYONE A VERY NATIVE HOLIDAY!

card used for 2015American Indian Artwork

Category: Holidays