My Mom always told me that good things will come to us on the 12s. My baby brother was born on 12/12. He was killed at the age of 15, when I was just 17 years old. A heartbreaking moment in our lives yet one that created traditions that I carry with me today. Today, on what wouldve been his 43rd Birthday, we trim our tree and start our 12 Days of Christmas activities. Since the year he passed, my Mother made this day special. It was about being together as a family. It was about remembering those who passed on before us. It was about Love and holding on to what we hold dear. It was a way to honor my brother, Shan Man, and keep him a part of our holiday celebrations forever.
As a Native person, holding on to our Cultural Identity is so very important. Part of that Cultural Identity is Tradition. Carrying on Traditions, passing them down into the coming generations. Those traditions may not be "Indian" in others eyes, but they are very much a part of who we are. I struggle with that whole identity thing. So if I dont do things exactly as my ancestors, if I do it with my own spin, is it still considered a Native Tradition??? After all it is a tradition and I am Native? Do you see where I am going with this?
My Family is steeped in Tradition. The sentiments of each one are rooted deep in our hearts and are filled with so much Love. From trimming the tree on the 12th, to adding a sentimental ornament to our tree each year, to the fruits, nuts and candy that sit under the tree. All this things are part of my familys Native Xmas!
My tree is filled with ornaments my children made or were given, ornaments from friends and family, ornaments to mark special moments in our lives and ornaments to honor the Spirit of my brother and Mom. Anyone who joins us for the holidays must bring an ornaments, its the only thing we ask that you bring if you're joining us. One day these ornaments will all be passed on to my children. And then to theirs. And they will add to them with their families.
Each year we place a bowl of fruit, nuts and old fashioned candy under the tree. When my Papa Bailey was a child, thats all they'd get for Xmas. When my Father was a child, it was sometimes all they would receive for Xmas. Back then, Xmas wasnt about Black Friday sales and the hottest toys and gadgets on the market. It was about being together and celebrating the abundance of having ENOUGH. Enough Warmth. Enough to Eat & Drink. Enough Love. Enough Happiness. Enough Good Health. So each year, I add these to my tree. Each year my youngest son Jaxx helps me. And in my oldest son Michaels home, you will find them under his tree too.
Traditions are part of who we are, as individuals, as families, as Tribes and as Native People. These traditions take on all different forms and have all sorts of meaning. When you ask what makes a certain tradition "Native"... the answer is easy. If you are Native and it is your tradition, so be it. There's this big misconception that all of our traditions involve spirits, animals, feathers and anything else you can stereotypically be defined as Native. People forget that we have evolved as Native People. We are here and we are in the Now. We are as Contemporary and Modern as you. We carry traditions from our ancestors from various places in time. We have some pretty dang modern Ancestors too. So don't forget that when you are envisioning what us Natives do for our Holiday Traditions. LOL