A Very Merry Colonized Christmas
‘Tis the season. For both holiday magic and Indigenous guilt.
Christmas has always been my favourite. Fluffy trees cloaked in baubles, tinsel, and all things fire hazard. Lights in every color adorning houses on every street. Turkey dinners with side dishes straight from the Mayflower. Santa’s sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and Mariah Carey on blast.
It is a day (or, let's be honest, a month) that I look forward to with great joy. But in recent years, it has also been a cause for deep reflection.
My family has spent many years and will spend many more working to restore traditions, language, and culture forcefully stolen from us by colonialism. Each day there is work to be done reclaiming and revitalizing our identities – finding our way back to ourselves.
Some may call this “decolonizing.”
And what a word to call it. Defined as the “long-term process involving the bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic, and psychological divesting of colonial power.”  There is strength in knowing that my kin and I are rebuilding our traditional ways of life, living, and perspective. But there is an element of guilt and uneasiness that follows this journey. Constant questioning of if I am Indigenous enough, if I am doing enough to fight back against colonialism, if I am an active participant in upholding systemic inequalities and institutional violence against Indigenous people?
Christmas embodies that guilt. This holiday is not one of my Indigenous ancestors, not one celebrated by the people I strive to honour, not one built on the foundation of my belief systems. This holiday, steeped in religion, was historically not of my own.
And yet, I love it all the same.
Born into two worlds, I have spent my life learning to "paddle on both sides of the canoe," as they say. One foot firmly planted in the roots of the modern world that shaped my upbringing, and one foot in the ancestral Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing of all those who came before me. It is a great privilege to have both. Particularly when for so many years, one side of my identity was outlawed, beaten out of children younger than my own, and forced underground for many years.
We live now in a world my ancestors could not have dreamed of, but I exist today as all their dreams come true. It is a powerful truth that while so much of our lives have been marred by colonialism, so too has so much of ourselves stayed the same.
If decolonizing is a long-term process of divesting colonial power, then reclaiming my own must be part of the goal. My ancestors may not have enjoyed Evergreen by Taylor Swift or sugar-heavy butter tarts, but they were innovators and knowledge keepers, people whose traditions evolved out of both necessity and love.
Most of all, they were people who rallied against the state to ensure their children had freedom. Freedom to speak their language, attend ceremonies, sing, drum, and gather in community—the freedom to be themselves wholly.
So, this holiday I will do just that.
As an Indigenous woman who loves my very merry colonized Christmas and who carries my teachings and ancestors with me through every day, and in every way...including the holiday season.
Until next time,
 Linda Tuhiwai Smith, “Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples” (10 May 2012).