Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass column

With the cold weather and snow finally here (a storm is happening as I write this article), everywhere you turn it’s “Merry Christmas” this and “Deck the Halls” that.  I’ll be honest, I have a serious love/hate relationship with Christmas.

When I was a kid, I loved it – it was my favourite time of year!  From no school to visiting Santa at the mall, attending my reserve’s Children’s Christmas party, midnight mass, opening presents, being surrounded by family and all the great food, there was nothing like it!  No other holiday came close.  As a young adult however, all self-righteous and cynical (and most likely just broke, haha), I despised Christmas – it was the commercialism that really got to me.  From being a part of gift exchanges that carried a mandatory minimum for spending ($250.00) to greed over need and no real sense of at least, “tradition” (never mind religion), I didn’t like what I was observing and I certainly didn’t like what Christmas had become.

Over the years, my thoughts and emotions over this holiday have flip-flopped between the two extremes I have described above.  However, now that I am a parent, I have really been trying to find a comfortable balance; an acceptable medium that I can both project and pass along to my child.

I turned to my mom, Melinda Good Will, before I started writing this article because as a kid, I always loved hearing the stories she had about experiencing Christmas when she was a little girl.  With her permission, I am sharing what she had to say on the subject:

We were a very fortunate family to always have a visit from Santa with gifts under the tree (with the help of an older brother or sister writing the letter to Santa in November), even if they were not the same as the exact picture in the catalogue. I don’t think we even cared about that!  On Christmas Eve, we listened to Christmas carols while playing, just waiting for that broadcast interruption to inform us that Santa had been sighted in the sky in the east or west.  We each hung up one of my dad’s largest socks, each putting our own personal name tag on with an old piece of store string or yarn.  We watched my dad and the boys clean the chimney pipe so Santa wouldn’t get dirty.  The Christmas carols would be playing while my mom and the girls were busy cooking to get the midnight meal ready.  I didn’t have to do much because I was the baby!  When the announcer on the radio said Santa was closer, we (kids) had to put out milk and cookies for Santa and water for his reindeer and go to bed.  Wow, I never thought I could go to sleep with the smell of all the wonderful food, Christmas carols, people talking, etc., but we did fall asleep!  We were awoken by one of the older kids or mom or dad and informed that Santa had come and left, I guess while they were at church because my mom would never miss midnight mass.  My dad or one of the older kids always took her.  We all ate together after my dad said his prayer and smudged.  Sometimes, if we had an older visitor(s) over, they were usually given the honour to say the prayer before we ate.  After eating, we gathered in the living room and my dad or one of the oldest brothers or sisters called out the names as they distributed the gifts.  We were so busy with our toys, we sometimes forgot about our stockings until the next day!  There were times when we younger ones searched for evidence of Santa’s arrival but my mom and dad seemed to have everything taken care of, from the bite of the cookie, spilled or splashed water for the reindeer, to the dirty footprints by the stove chimney!  They claimed the fire in the stove was put out before they went to church so Santa wouldn’t burn!  That was the beautiful part of Christmas I remember – I like to remember; they always provided us with such a good Christmas.  And to think and know the kids across the road, down the road or over the hill never had a good Christmas or a Christmas at all, that is why I always felt so blessed with having parents that worked hard to support and raise us the best they could.

These certainly sounded like the good ol’ days and seeing as how there is not that big of an age gap between my mother and I, I think that I can safely say that they were.  Today, times and issues are not so simple.  There’s a certain political correctness that has emerged surrounding Christmas; from people reminding others via social media to put smaller gifts from Santa and bigger, more expensive gifts from parents so as to properly address varying degrees of household income, to people being outright offended by public transportation message boards saying “Merry Christmas” for religious reasons or what have you!  While I don’t consider myself to be a religious person, I believe I am spiritual, so if my son wanted to attend midnight mass or something of that nature, I certainly wouldn’t condemn it.  I attended when I was younger and for me, there was always something peaceful and pensive about attending midnight mass.  So at some point, I am going to have to let him in on that, too and let him know that it is an option.

In due time, I have to find ways to explain things like this to my child without sacrificing the innocent moments of joy that I want him to relate with this holiday much like both my mom and I remember.  When did Christmas become so complicated?

With that, may you and yours have a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous 2016!

Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass is a member of the Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. You can reach Stephanie at Sunchild Law, her email address is: stephanie@sunchildlaw.com

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