Legendary New Mexico Native American Holidays

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS IN NEW MEXICO ARE UNLIKE ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD THAT’S DUE IN LARGE PART TO THE CONVERGENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN HOLIDAY WITH NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITIONS “the concept of Christmas and the celebration of the Christ child was first introduced to Pueblo people and our communities when the Spanish came and brought the Catholic religion” THE MID-SIXTEENTH CENTURY SAW THE ARRIVAL OF CATHOLIC PRIESTS WHO ESTABLISHED MISSIONS, SUCH AS THE SAN JOSE DE LOS JEMEZ CHURCH, LOCATED ON THE JEMEZ HISTORIC SITE “I think the overall introduction of Christmas took many, many decades to understand and to also being implemented.” FOR MANY NATIVE AMERICANS, PRESERVING CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL INTEGRITY WITH CHRISTIAN CELEBRATIONS WAS -AND IS- OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE. “Part of our annual celebrations during the solstices and different times of the seasons were incorporated with our traditional dances and traditional ways of life and beliefs and incorporated into the overall celebration of what we now know as the Christmas celebration.” JUST AS THE CATHOLIC CELEBRATIONS FEATURE UNMISTAKABLE ICONS OF THE SEASON, SO TOO DO NATIVE AMERICANS “During the month of December, some of our pueblos have Matachines Dances” THE MOORISH DANCE IS FEATURED IN THE WINTER CELEBRATIONS AT MANY PUEBLOS IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO, AND IS JUST AS POPULAR AS FEAST DAYS, WHICH ARE HELD ON CHRISTMAS EVE AND CHRISTMAS DAY -MANY, OPEN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. BUT WHILE THERE ARE DISTINCT FEATURES OF NATIVE AMERICAN HOLIDAYS, MUCH OF THE CELEBRATION IS THE SAME AS NON-NATIVE BELIEVERS. “The families get together and they either have a live tree -or a fake tree- and they adorn the Christmas Tree with items that have significant importance or a theme.” SOUND FAMILIAR? “we in the southwest and in New Mexico really take a piece of who we are and share it with others as that annual celebration of friendship and love and compassion.” ULTIMATELY, CHRISTMAS ON THE PUEBLO IS ALL ABOUT TENACITY, ADAPTABILITY AND LOVE “through our interactions with other sovereigns – Mexico, Spanish and the US Government- we’ve in essence transitioned through many different changes, but we’re still very resilient in the maintenance in our way of life in our languages and our traditions” TRADITIONS THAT WILL CONTINUE FOR GENERATIONS TO COME. CHAD BRUMMETT, LEGENDARY NEW MEXICO.

Stephen Childs

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