How is Choctaw Christmas unique? Food, decorations and other traditions

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2019-21 Choctaw Indian Princess Alice stands beside a display featuring a Choctaw Christmas Tree and other native paraphernalia.

 Choctaw Christmas is similar to the modern Christmas that we all enjoy today. But there are some ways it is unique at home, because the Chatha people prepare traditional foods to enjoy with the typical green bean casserole and chicken dressing. In other words, most tribal members would actually cook outside over an open fire in their black cast iron pots to make tanchi or hominy, banaha similar to tamales, or Indian tacos which consist of fry bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, onions, and salsa to add a little kick to it. 

The majority of Choctaw also displays traditional ornaments on their Christmas trees. Artisans create beaded ornaments, Choctaw dolls, ribbons with diamond designs or sashes, and little handmade moccasins to showcase their skills and remember those who taught them. The star on top of the tree is common, however, most Chatha people put a Choctaw doll or the seal of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The main part about the tree decorating is only to showcase who we are as Choctaw and to proudly display our beautiful, rich culture and colorful traditions. 

As part of the Native American Club and Bon Appetit Club at East Central Community College, we wanted to dedicate a tree to preserve many of these traditions for the school as they have always been the Warriors. 

The ornaments were designed to represent our seven communities, our colors, our language and our arts and crafts. The tree will be shown in the library at East Central each fall from homecoming until we leave for the holidays for everyone to see, to learn, and to enjoy.

Many times, we draw names and play secret Santa, and on Christmas Day we present the gifts to those who drew the names in the family. Other families will exchange names with one another and play the same game or have them write down their top five things that they love. It is a really fun game to play, and it brings so much joy to see the smiles and laughter on Christmas morning.

Most Choctaw families may have different ideas for their family gatherings on Christmas, but it’s all about love between each other. Another great aspect of our version of Christmas is celebrating our language, even those who aren’t fluent the time is used for teaching, translation, and storytelling. Throughout the cooking, decorating, sharing, and exchanging gifts the Chatha spirit lives within us. As you can tell our version of Christmas is unique, the most important aspect of coming together as a family on Christmas is being able to fellowship with one another and have a great time together.

I hope this article brings you good cheers while also giving you an idea of what it’s like to celebrate Christmas from my Choctaw people. In addition I will end with this, “Hicha Nittak Hollo Chitto Hicha Affahmih Himona Chimachukmahjahkeh!,”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to yours!

• Alice Jimmie is the 2019-21 Choctaw Indian Princess of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

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