COLUMN: Jessica Iron Joseph -- Dec. 21, 2012

Jessica Iron Joseph
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Jessica Iron Joseph's angel now reflects the people around her family's Christmas tree.

Last year when we put up our Christmas tree, after decorating I stared glumly at the star which we’ve had for a number of years. It was a beautiful star, but very top heavy. Only with great engineering was it possible to balance the star without catastrophe. Sometimes we didn’t even bother to put it up because of the hassle, but those times the tree always looked unfinished.

So instead of leaving the tree bare, we decided to shop for a new tree topper.

I was open to anything; a star, St. Nicholas, an angel. Naturally I would weigh the object carefully, to ensure we weren’t replicating the same scenario we had with the heavy star.

I honestly don’t remember what we saw because I happened across two shelves full of beautiful angels. I stared at them in awe. I loved their outfits, wings, hair and adornments.

Except one thing struck me as odd -- they were all blond and blue-eyed. I searched for a brunette one, but they didn’t exist at this particular store. I don’t have a problem with blond and blue-eyed angels; in fact I have many fair friends who are as beautiful as the angels on the shelf were. But it felt weird to purchase one because everyone in my house has brown or black hair and dark eyes.

I complained aloud to my husband, who wasn’t nearly as affected by the conundrum as I was. He suggested another star, or a St. Nick figure. I thought I should complain to the store. I mean, weren’t there angels of every color in the world? Isn’t Christmas celebrated by people of every colour? Shouldn’t the store represent its shoppers properly?

I stared at the angels, unwilling to budge. I hated to admit it, but I was enamoured with the angels. I had to have one, but I wanted it to resemble an Indian.

A thought dawned on me just then. I was crafty. I was a painter. This really didn’t have to be a problem. I could wait until I found a brunette angel, or even shop online. I was certain I could find one somewhere. Or I could take charge at that second, and make an angel reflect my family. I smiled satisfactorily. That’s just what I would do.

I searched for an angel with long, flowing hair, as opposed to one with an updo -- as I figured that might better resemble a First Nations angel. I selected one with the prettiest dress I could find.

I know I probably could have found a brunette Barbie in a ball gown, and added feathered wings, but that was much more work than I had planned -- never mind how expensive those dolls are these days!

So I purchased a beautiful blond, blue-eyed angel, which was quite inexpensive -- bonus! Then I brought out my acrylic paints and set to work mixing shades of brown for her hair, eyes and skin. I also gave her a darker shade of lipstick to complement her new makeover. My only regret was that I didn’t take before and after photos.

When she was finished I brought her into the living room hidden behind my back. I told my boys the problem I had had in the store. There were only blond and blue-eyed angels and I wanted a Cree angel! What should I have done?

One shrugged his shoulders. Another son recommended I shop at a different store. My middle son suggested that rather than searching for an angel, I should just climb up there and sit atop the tree, to be our family’s own brown angel. I’m actually pretty fair, but what a darling! He got a very nice Christmas present last year.

I presented my remade angel with great pride, taking her for a spin around the room. The boys all nodded appreciatively and promptly returned to their video games. I had hoped for much more enthusiasm, but apparently dolls of multicultural colors have little bearing on boys.

But when I unwrapped her this year, she was more gorgeous than I had remembered. She looks perfect atop my Christmas tree and I feel much more in the Christmas spirit when I see her. She seems to be watching over my family. I’m putting a plume in her hair this year, and considering changing her golden wings to feathered ones. Someday I might bead her a dress, but we’ll see.

Now when people stop in to visit me, I always get compliments on my Cree angel -- usually from women, which doesn’t surprise me. I think many First Nations women have felt the same way, particularly about dolls that historically haven’t been multicultural.

In any case, I don’t pretend that every family celebrates Christmas or decorates with angels. I know that’s not true. My family does for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right way or the only way. I still respect people who celebrate different traditions from mine.

Whatever you celebrate, I wish you all blessings, peace, joy and laughter in the next couple weeks. May you all be surrounded by too much love and too much food. Happy Holidays!

Organizations: First Nations

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