Elders share beautiful Christmas stories
- Judith Iron | January 04, 2020
An elder from the Canoe Lake First Nation remembered how Christmases were back in the older days.
Eugene W. Iron recalled that Christmas was always a nice time. He explained how people use to visit and be happy to see each other.
“I remember traveling far to see friends and family at Christmas. We went by sleigh and horses. It was beautiful. Those horses were decorated. We had colored ribbons on the horse tails and lots of jingle bells on the reigns. It sounded so nice. I still remember that sound,” he said. “It took us days to get places back then and it was cold, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we visited. It was so nice for all of our relatives to get together.”
Iron remembers every year on Christmas Eve, his kohkom and mushom would take him to midnight mass where they would go to sing and pray. But nowadays, everything isn’t the same as he once remembered.
“Everything changed over the years. It used to be about being a good person all year and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Now it seems all that matters are presents,” said Iron, an 86-year-old elder.
Iron is the grandson of the very first Chief of Canoe Lake, John Iron. He was sentimental when he was asked what Christmas was like as a child.
“I remember being small and watching my mom while Christmas music played. She really loved that song Silent Night. When it came on, she would turn it up real loud and sing along. That’s why, for me, Christmas is happy and sad,” he said. “I still think of my mom and I miss her when I hear that song today. All of us elders have lost a lot of friends and family over the years, but we think of them when Christmas time comes. Today, I am glad when I get to see my kids and their kids at Christmas. It makes me happy. I’m glad they think of me.”
Iron has many beautiful memories of his Christmases as a child. His childhood Christmases were peaceful, carefree, loving, and abundant. Iron and his family may not have necessarily been wealthy when he was a child, but they were rich in tradition and family.
The great granddaughter of signatory Chief John Iron, 80-year-old Alice Bouvier said that most memories of Christmas from her childhood are of her and her family traveling back and forth between home and the Beauval residential school.
At Christmas break, Bouvier’s parents often arrived to pick her up at the school in a wagon pulled by two horses. Bouvier looked forward to going home because Christmas was a happy time to be with family.
Bouvier said gifts were not usually given. It was an unspoken gift if its own that the presence of friends and family was all they ever needed.
“I remember one Christmas when I was about 6 years old and the school gave me two gifts. I got a dark-skinned doll and big red bus. I was so proud,” Bouvier said with great laughter. “Things have changed so much,' says Bouvier, “back then people knew what was important.”