First Nations Christmas Recipes for Thanks
First Nations peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere have respected a Creator and Great Spirit, although they did not likely hear of Christ until the Spanish arrived with missionaries and the English with their Protestantism. The various Indigenous groups also likely shared/share a belief in the spirit nature of all things.This leads to thanksgiving feasts many months of the year and not only in October or November. When the First Peoples hunt, they thank the beasts for giving their lives. They thank the crops for growing to feed them.
Many First Peoples, especially in what is now the US, discovered that the mission stories of Christ's birth and related events fulfilled certain tribal prophecies and did not interfere with their Indigenous beliefs. In fact, because Jesus is Hebrew and likely darker skinned, many Native Americans call him Red Man. They also like that he experienced the wilderness. Other native groups were not treated well by Christians - the Northeastern nations at Plymouth, for instance, but the maltreatment is not the only interaction had with Native Americans; much was good.
US Christmas is only 140 years old - Native American Christmas has been always
Christmas was not proclaimed a US national holiday until 1870, after the Civil War. My grandfather was born that year and lived about 100 years, but his parents may or may not have celebrated Christmas. I think that they did and it was a big farm Christmas, but one that was likely waylaid during the Civil War, with the men away fighting. My Great Grandfather died in 1870, so he missed the national holiday by a few months. Christmas had not been extremely popular in the North, according to Native American sources, but celebrated somewhat more openly in the South.
Regardless, the Huron Nation acquired their own Huron Carol for Christmas and a Nativity in which the Christ Child is attended buy a bear, a fox, and a bison. Gift giving is a tradition among the Hurons and many nations, many months of the year and not only in December. If everyone gives, no one will be in need. However, rather than St. Nicolas, it is Handsome Fellow in white buckskins who arrives with presents at Christmastime.
I would love for there to be Christmas Pow Wows for us to attend and enjoy. However, there are not, because to many of our First Peoples, every day is Christmas - a day of giving - and always has been. Native American Christmas is as forever Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The link above gives a transliterated poetic version of the carol and several langauges, but I particularly like the first stanza in the literal translation:
Have courage, you who are humans, Jesus, he is born
Behold, the spirit who had us as prisoners has fled
Do not listen to it, as it corrupts our minds
They are spirits, coming with a message for us, the sky people
They are coming to say, Rejoice.
With this recipe, we thank the traditional wild pig, the wheat in the field, the grapes on the vine, the spices in the forest, Grandmother Walnut Tree, and the settlers that brought coffee and sugar.
- Prep time: 10 min
- Cook time: 1 hour 30 min
- Ready in: 1 hour 40 min
- Yields: 10 - 12 Servings or more
Sausage and Fruit Cake
- 1 Pound dark raisins
- 1 Pound English Walnuts
- 1 Pound ground sausage
- 2 1/4 Cups brown sugar, light or dark -- You might substitute honey or molasses and increase the baking time several minutes. Test for doneness every 15 minutes after the first hour of baking.
- 1 to 2 tsp mixed spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ginger
- 6 Ounces of brewed black coffee
- 2 1/4 Cups flour
Note: If you use a spicier sausage, leave out the ginger.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Mix all ingredients and place into a rectangular fruit cake pans.
- Bake for 90 minutes or longer. Toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If the cake begins to brown too much, cover with a foil tent.
- Cool cake and wrap in wine soaked cloths, if desired. Place in air-tight container in a cool place.
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