MUSCOGEE NATION, Oklahoma – Sleigh bells ringing, carolers singing, and citizens mingling are just some of the many sounds heard across the Muscogee (Creek) Nation during the holiday season. It’s the time of year to draw near to family and unwind with holiday traditions. Christmas movies, game nights, dinners, church services, and light displays are just some of the many holiday traditions enjoyed across the reservation.
This holiday season saw many familiar traditions, such as the Christmas parades in Okmulgee, Tulsa, and Henryetta. Christmas light displays shone brightly at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow, and the Garden of Lights in Muskogee.
The Creek Nation Council House in Okmulgee also brightened the streets of downtown with its light display.
Christmas markets were abundant. The MCN Christmas Carnival returned for the first time since 2019 due to the Covid Pandemic. Families across the nation enjoyed hot chocolate, Native craft vendors, and classic carnival games for children. Indian Santa Claus and a reindeer both appeared and posed for pictures.
MCN Acting Director of Marketing & Tourism Ryan Logan said he enjoys going out for Christmas every year. Logan is in charge of organizing the Christmas carnival. If you attended this year’s carnival, you could tell it was organized by someone that enjoys Christmas.
“I always go to multiple light shows, but I think everybody does that,” Logan said. “I’m always that person that knows when my Christmas decorations are done because it looks like Christmas is everywhere!”
Sisters Justina Kemp and Jaqueline Rolland (Mvskoke) shared a booth at the Christmas carnival. For them, the holidays are a time for preserving and passing down their cultural traditions.
“Now that we are the elders, we just have to keep on going, keep carrying on our traditions, keep trying to carry on our Mvskoke language, our Mvskoke hymns,” Kemp said.
Autumn Star Catering hosted its twelfth annual Native American Christmas markets in Tulsa and Glenpool. Patrons could do their Christmas shopping locally with Native art and craft vendors. Autumn Star Catering owner Tricia Fields said her family still carries the traditions from her childhood.
“On our Pawnee/Chickasaw side, we have gotten together every year since I was born,” Fields said. “My grandma and our great-grandparents got together, and we always celebrated on Christmas Eve in my grandmother’s home. We would always have dinner, and my grandmother would decorate the tree nicely.”
The traditions Fields’ family did together even left a lasting impact on her friends in her community.
“We’d be caroling at my neighbor’s house, and the guys would be laughing and teasing me back at school,” Fields said. “They also treasure that, and bring that up and say, ‘I remember you coming to our grandma’s house or coming to our house.'”
Although Fields and her family no longer go door to door singing carols, they do still enjoy singing together at home.
New holiday attractions across the nation were seen as well. In Tulsa, Promenade Mall transformed its second floor into a Christmas Winter Wonderland. It included various holiday stations, including Santa’s workshop, a Christmas tree maze, and a snow room. A little ways southwest, Sapulpa opened a Route 66 Christmas Chute in the downtown area. The unique concept featured ten pavilions adorned with holiday-themed decorations that allowed pedestrians to walk through.
Some citizens gave back during the Holidays. Mvskoke Riders hosted the second annual Motorcycle Toy Run, an event where toys are collected for children of Mvskoke Veterans.
“We gather here, and we bring our toys as riders,” Paul Bemore (Mvskoke/Seminole/Osage/Quapaw) said. “We ask the community to do likewise, and they can follow us, and we ride to our destination, which is Okmulgee.”
For the event, the riders began their ride at the Tulsa Indian Community Center and headed south down highway 75 to the MCN Veterans Affairs office at the tribal complex.
MCN Elder Services hosted the Holiday Elder Luncheon at the RiverSpirit Casino and Resort for the first time in the past few years. The event brought together elders from communities across the nation. Attendants at the event were eager to share their holiday traditions.
Katherine Powell (Mvskoke) of the Okemah Community said they always look for ways to ensure everyone is cared for during the holiday season.
“We do things for our nutrition program,” Powell said. “We try to do stuff for them like give them things, make sure they get a gift or something because they might not get one.”
Amy Hill (Mvskoke) has a lot to celebrate during the holidays. In addition to Christmas and New Year, her birthday also falls on New Year’s Day. She will be celebrating her 88th birthday with her family in 2023.
“They usually fix me a big dinner and invite a lot of people,” Hill said.
Although everyone has their own favorite holiday activities, one recurring tradition that many citizens shared was spending time with friends and family.