Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Tale of the Native Nativity

Layla attends school on a Native reserve and has been very lucky to be involved with and learn many of the beliefs and customs of the Osoyoos Indian Band, including their Okanagan Language.

This Christmas Layla's school, Sen Pok Chin, decided to reproduce the Tale of the Nativity, as written by the children of the Inkameep Day School in 1940, exactly 70 years ago. The play was great but I also enjoyed the speakers prior to the play who spoke of the history of the school and the challenges they had to deal with in keeping their culture alive. We even heard from some of the band's Elders who had been students at this school in the 1940s. They spoke about the great successes of the school's art and drama productions. They even have a letter from Walt Disney inviting them to Disneyland. Unfortunately, due to the World War, they were unable to attend but the letter will be put on display at the Desert Cultural Centre at Nk'mip Resort. There are few pieces left to show for the many productions they put on. When their teacher enlisted for war, the new teacher taught them that what they were doing was evil and burned all of their masks, costumes and so forth.

The Elders were followed by the play, A Tale of the Native Nativity. I was not successful at getting very good photos, especially since I was wrestling the badest-boy-ever the whole time. Hope you get the idea anyways.

Act One

The Play begins in a small village where Mari is visited by the winged man to tell her she will become the mother of the great chief.

Act Two

The couple travel to the village of the Great Chief and as no TeePees or lodges are available, they live in a cave with the animals to entertain them and keep them warm. Here the baby is born and they are visited by three hunters and three chiefs.

Act Three

Mari and Susap take the baby to see the Prophet and the Medicine Woman. When they are visited by the Winged Man, they learn that the baby is in danger and they must move again.

The children did a fantastic job. Layla was a winged man along with the rest of her grade one classmates. They sang some beautiful Christmas songs in English as well as in Okanagan.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas For Me

I grew up as the 6th of 7 children. We moved around a lot and usually did not have a lot of extended family close by. Christmas's for us were spent with each other with the occasional visit from grandparents. I have a lot of great memories of the holidays but these memories are not of gifts, or parties. My memories are all of the weeks prior to Christmas where my Mom made each of us feel involved and excited to participate in the preparation for Christmas.

My mom baked at Christmas. She baked a lot! We all knew what type of treats we could expect. Home made marshmallows that we all got to garnish with sprinkles, coconut, crushed almonds, etc., thimble cookies, sour cream cookies that we all helped cut out and decorate, cherry balls, pies, nanaimo bars and all sorts of deliciousness.

The baking was great but my favourite tradition was making ornaments. My mom is crafty, this is true, but I can only imagine how much patience is required to teach and help all of us to make or own ornaments no matter our skill level. I remember being impressed as my mom was able to blow all the innards of an egg out of a tiny pin hole. (I still can't do that) We decorated cartons and cartons of eggs for our tree. I remember being amazed at how well she could paint ceramic figurines and how excited I was to paint some of my own.

The most exciting part of Christmas though was the day she pulled out all of the decorations and we decorated the house and trimmed the tree as a family. We always had Christmas music on and she let us decorate as we wanted. I remember it all. The village that she created by hand, the nativities she made, and how fun it was to set them all up. Each year it was fun to pull out all of the ornaments and recall making them. My mom let us trim the tree without much direction and it always looked great. Those are the Holiday moments that I most cherish. After all these years, I remember very few of the gifts I received, but the times spent with my brothers and sisters and mom and dad are clear and cherished every year as I try to do the same with my own family.

My mom managed to instill in me a love for arts and crafts but her talent must skip a generation. My children are only 2 and 6 years old but Layla and I have made ornaments and decorations every year to the sounds of the Osmond Family Christmas or Boney M blaring in the background.

My tree is still adorned with ornaments from my childhood that I made or ones that my mom made and I loved. It is like opening a time capsule every year when we bring out the decorations. My tree is full of 30 year old eggs, hand crafted bells, tiny mittens that my mom knit, an angel made out of noodles from when I was in grade 1, ceramic ornaments that have lasted over 25 years to make it to my tree and, of course, the ornaments that Layla and I contribute each year.

This year Layla and I took all of the boring silver balls that we had and jazzes them up with paint and sparkles. We painted some new ceramic ornaments and hung them. We jazzed up some old silver butterfly ornaments with some new color and sparkle. All the while, blaring the same Christmas songs that I listened to as a child and now listened to my own daughter sing along to.

I am so grateful for my Mom for making these times so special for our family. I am so grateful for her for keeping all of us (even us young ones) included. I love that my tree has so much meaning and history. I love that I have so many wonderful Christmas memories and that they all include my family. I love recalling the live Nativity my family participated in. I love how peaceful our home was on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I love how my Dad took charge of Christmas breakfast. I love how much we were brought together as a family during the Holidays and am so thankful for my parents for all that they did for us.

The MacKenzie Clan - Back L-R: Jen, Grammy, Me, Amy, Mom, Dad, Rob Front: Mike, Grandad, Sara (Emily not yet born)
I love my Mom, I love my Family - Thank you!