Choctaw Christmas

Nittak Hullo Chito Na Yukpa is the way to say Merry Christmas in Choctaw. It is pronounced: nit-tak hol-loh chi-toh nah yohk-pah http://www.choctawschool.com/media/31736/nittak_hullo_chito_na_yukpa.mp3

Each word has its own meaning:

nittak (nit-tak) = day

hullo (hol-loh) = holy

chito (chi-toh) = big

na yukpa = happy

In other words, Happy Big Holy Day! If you would like to learn more, check out their website:  http://www.choctawschool.com/

That is how they say Merry Christmas, but how do they celebrate? Actually, Choctaw People did not celebrate Christmas before they were introduced to Christianity in the 1800’s. This is when these beliefs were shared by the missionaries like Cyrus Byington who helped to develop the first Choctaw written language. When the children returned from the boarding schools, they brought Christian beliefs with them including the story of the birth of Christ. That is when the Christmas celebrations began.

When most families celebrate Christmas, three things are involved, food, family, and fun. This is true of Choctaw people as well who get together to celebrate this ‘holy day.’ They join with family and amid teasing and laughter begin by eating favorite dishes. One of these is fry bread, a staple for any meal made of flattened bread dough fried in oil. 

 

menu_frybread

 

Fry Bread

2 c. flour                                                                                                                      
1 tsp. salt                                             
3 tsp. baking powder                           
1 c. milk
Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together. Add milk or water and stir to make a stiff dough. Turn into the well-floured board and pat down to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into squares with a slit down the middle. You can make these any size you want. For Indian Tacos, you get a ball and roll it out to about 7 or 8 inches. It should be big enough to nearly cover a plate. Serve hot with syrup, honey, etc. as a snack.

They also have specialties including Tanchi Laoma, a hominy dish that is served up warm and delicious.

Tanchi Lanona

2 c. grit hominy
2 or 3 qts. water
3 lbs. pork backbone
salt to taste

Have the water in the pot ready. Wash your hominy before cooking. Put in pot and cook until half done, then put in the backbone. Cook it together until it gets done. Salt to taste. Stir it frequently.

Like most families, they also have turkey, ham, and potatoes. After a meal, gifts are presented with the best of all being shared by the elders who tell stories of long ago. This is their gift to the family. The families also enjoy singing as part of the celebration as seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW5Rm10shRA

There are many versions of The Night before Christmas, but A Native American Night before Christmas by Garry Robinson has to be one of my favorites! With its tale of Big Redshirt and Chokecherries, I’m sure it will become one of yours too. https://youtu.be/z6YLOXXj8a0

the Night Before Christmas

Yakoke! (Thank you) my friends and Nittak Hullo Chito Na Yukpa to all.

Becky Villareal is the author of Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues available on Amazon http://amzn.to/2zpxrpO

Thank you, Mr. Joe Wolf, with the Choctaw Nation who helped me with this article. 

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