Do calls to decolonize the holidays have you uncertain about celebrating the winter seasons, first consider the ancient origins of the winter festivals that are deeply rooted in Onkwehonweneha.
It’s important to know that most ceremonies directly correlate to the moon and stars honouring the natural process of time rather than a specific gregorian calendar date.
Onkwehonwe winter festivals are enduring despite campaigns to convert practitioners to particular religions or, more recently, their capitalization entirely.
Onkwehonwe celebrations have survived these attempts and are still practiced to this day
It all starts with the Seven dancers and the new moon who announce the new year’s arrival. The Midwinter festival begins five days later with the traditional opening, followed by ceremonies that include the excellent feather dance and stirring the ashes amongst the several ceremony days.
The days are rich in symbolism representative of the renewal of our responsibility to the earth. Singing, dancing and feasting are all reoccurring themes during this time.
The colonization of solstice celebrations replaced the female medicine woman referred to as the Deer Mother into a male figure. He donned a version of her signature red and white clothing. However, the female deer retain their antlers and would pull her sleigh in the winter months. She was a medicine woman and would distribute her gifts as she travelled from village to village.
Quviasukukvik is the Inuit winter celebration that perfectly aligns with the changing seasons. It is to feed spirits, encourage good hunting and welcome the sun into the new year. The feast, family gatherings and gift exchange are a hallmark of this celebration. When the first settlers observed his festival, it was considered an equal counterpart to the colonized Christmas.
The Zuni observe the winter solstice through a series of dances and ceremonies retelling their creation performed by the mediators between the living and the spirit world referred to as the Shalako.
The ceremonies themselves mark the closing of one year and the rebirth of the sun into the next while honouring the principal deities of the Zuni. The feast and ceremony is a community-wide event and now is strictly for nation members.
Revisiting the Christmas Riots
The same people who sought to purify Onkwehonwe festivals within our territory attempted to undo the version of Christ’s mass they had created. The contempt for merry-making arrived in North America with the Puritans in 1620.
Law until 1681
In Massachusetts, the merry-making reached an intolerable level. Christmas started to resemble ancient frat parties; it signalled to the staunch religious politicians to create laws to stop the celebrations altogether.
“For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and offence of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such accountants as aforesaid, every person so offending shall pay of every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.”
Drinking and Debauchery
The behaviour that put the law on the books was none other than an almost two-week drunk and disorderly, aggressive begging and all-out lust-filled indulgence sans the inflated pig bladders.
The law remained on the books for some twenty-two years before it was repealed by the crown of England when religious affiliation changed.
Celebrate what exists Naturally.
So perhaps Desupremification is a far more accurate term when considering how to observe the seasonal changes.
Enjoy and celebrate a wonderful solstice and a brilliant Midwinter!