Raphael and Susan Alphonse, parents of Carla Alphonse. (Bella Alphonse photo)

Raphael and Susan Alphonse, parents of Carla Alphonse. (Bella Alphonse photo)

SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS: What do you do for Christmas?

Carla Alphonse writes about growing up and celebrating Christmas at Tl’etinqox First Nation

By Carla Alphonse

Spirit of Christmas

My past Christmases gave me many great memories, as I hope my future Christmases will. Christmas was mostly spent at home. A few Christmases were spent away from family and home. Those times, I felt misplaced.

I grew up at Tl’etinqox, Anaham. Our parents Raphael and Susie Alphonse were born and raised at Tl’etinqox. I have four sisters and two brothers. My twin brother and I are the youngest of seven children.

I grew up in a two-bedroom house with cold running water and electricity. We did not have the luxury of an indoor bathroom. Our outhouse was used for doing our business. It was a great time for reading, as the Sears catalog was handy and used as toilet paper.

Bathing was done in a small, tin tub. The water was used numerous times, since it was time consuming to heat up water on the stove. You were lucky to be the first to bath or you came at the right time when the water was changed.

Christmas as I remember it was going to church at midnight, coming back to the house afterwards, and eating a turkey meal. I remember being tired and sitting in church. ?inkwell, Mom, would be swatting our hands if we got too loud or antsy in church.

After church, ?aba, Dad’s friends or family would come for a visit and have a meal at our home. Hearing the laughter and talk of the Tsilhqot’in language gave us a sense of belonging.

?inkwel was an awesome cook. She made the best, yummy breads. Many folks, young and old, enjoyed her cooking. ?aba was a social person, always willing to help anyone. He loved to dance and listen to music. After church the record player would be in tune to the small crowd. It was soothing to listen to all as we fell asleep.

Christmas morning was waking up to the roar of the wood stove and warmth in the household, ?inkwel hung up new socks filled with oranges and old fashioned hard candy. It was a treat as these were not part of our eating habits. Santa was generous.

The aroma in the house smelt of home-cooked foods. As children, we rushed out the door as ?inkwel tried to get us to eat. We were too rushed to meet our friends for sliding. If it was not sliding, we meet our buddies at the outdoor rink. The rink was situated in the middle of the reserve. You could hear the laughter of the kids as hockey sticks hit the ice.

Darkness fell too early for us, as we headed on home. There were our parents sitting at the kitchen table and conversing in Tsilhqot’in. The sounds of forks hitting the plates was heard in the ol’ kitchen, the only sound to be heard as we filled our tummies.

Two hospital Christmases left very different memories for me. Our premature daughter was almost born in the ambulance one Christmas Eve. She flew to Vancouver BC Children’s Hospital while Santa flew around the world to deliver gifts. My husband brought presents and turkey dinner to my hospital room. Our daughter is a strong and healthy Tsilhqot’in woman now.

Years later, off-duty medics played guitars and sang carols in the hospital hallway during my Christmas stay after an operation. Again, my husband brought me my gifts. Family members came to visit and brought me yummy home-cooked food.

These are my memories from Christmas past. I look forward to another year filled with love, happiness and peace. May you add good Christmas memories to your lives.

ChilcotinFirst Nations

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