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Metis Christmas & kissy New Year!

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

The sound of the bells rang across the snowy ground, and the horses’ breath hung in the frozen air. The sky was a dull grey, and as the sun set on the horizon, the cold crept in a little more. “We need a picture!” yelled my aunt as she ran out into the snow to capture us at this moment.

The air was crisp and cold and it stung my nose and ears. Thankfully Grandpa lent me his insulated coveralls and big winter boots to keep me warm, and I had Grandma’s homemade mittens for my hands. My cousins, aunts, and uncles were all piled onto the sleigh, and we huddled close together for warmth. As my grandfather navigated the team of horses across the snowy ground, I remember thinking this was truly something special; it felt absolutely magical. I often wonder if the sleigh rides my grandfather took us on were part of his family traditions, and perhaps this was his way of passing them on to us.

My grandparents lived in a beautifully crafted log house just outside of Worsley, Alberta. When we returned from the sleigh ride, my grandmother served up a delicious homemade meal alongside homemade candies, cookies, cakes and a steamy cup of hot chocolate. The Christmas tree was decorated in the living room, and it emanated a beautiful aroma of pine throughout the house. Throughout the rooms laughter could be heard and love flowed all around us.

It’s safe to say, Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I'm not sure if it is the influence of my grandparents, the good food, or just the overall merriment of it, but there is certainly something about Christmas that speaks to my very soul. It’s as if somewhere deep within my genes, there is a memory that connects me to my ancestral Metis languages, songs, spirituality and teachings.[1] I realize now that the feelings of nostalgia are less about tradition for the sake of tradition, and more about my ancestral blood memory because my family’s Christmas traditions are heavily steeped in Metis tradition and that our Christmas’ mirror each other in a lot of ways.

For starters, Metis families focused on time with family during the Christmas season and traditionally Metis families are quite large. My family is huge! My grandparents had a total of 10 children, 30 grandchildren. 61 great grandchildren and 16 great great grandchildren. Family get-togethers are a whole production! Although spending time with my cousins, aunts, and uncles was sometimes overwhelming, I realize now just how special those times were, and how much they are grounded in our Metis heritage. Metis have always placed a significant emphasis on their familial relationships, and their interactions with their community, to which my family is a modern example of.[2]

For the most part, my family growing up wasn’t religious, although Christmas was often a religious event for my ancestors.[3] However, one thing that was very similar for us were the social gatherings. Traditionally, Metis peoples would host house parties and dances within their community so everyone could join in on the fun. My family often booked a community hall just so we could all fit under one roof!

Let’s be honest though: the best part of Christmas Day is always the food! Just like my ancestors we would bake and cook for days (or months) by making chokecherry jam, saskatoon syrup, canning moose meat from the fall hunt, making bannock (we called it dough-dogs), and all of the other candies and baked goods that would be prepared ahead of time. The tradition of preserving the fall harvest used to feel like a chore, but now it reminds me of Christmas and the joy of sharing with family and friends.

An interesting tradition I learned about while researching for this article is the manner in which Metis peoples would greet each other during the holidays. To be honest, I never really gave it much thought. Everyone hugged, some would shake hands, some would share kisses. This all seemed normal to me. I thought every family did this, and perhaps many do, and while it isn’t explicitly a Metis tradition, knowing my ancestors would greet each other in similar ways simply warms my heart.

As I prepare for another Christmas season, I seek out ways to bring these traditions to my own daughters. While I may not have a team of horses, or a log cabin to snuggle up in, I do have my grandmother’s recipes. Even if all I can do is bring the smell and taste of my Metis heritage into my house for a few weeks a year, knowing I am a reflection of those times is truly the best gift of all.

Wishing you all, dear readers, a wonderful holiday season in whatever tradition you celebrate in.

Metis Christmas and a kissy New Years

Until next time,

Amanda & Team ReconciliACTION YEG

[1] See:

[2] The Royal Canadian Geographical Society/Canadian Geographic, Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, (Canadian Geographic, 2018), online: Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, <>.

[3] Ibid.

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