If you can read this, friends, then it’s probably safe to say that you survived Christmasand, especially, the New Years festivities in the communities okay and you can still followthis very very long sentence but your heads are throbbing and you wish it would just stop causeyou’re not ready for tomorrow.

I know how you feel and I feel your pain. No, really, I do. From what little I can recall of Cree Christmas’ and New Years’ past back home, or just about anywhere else, everyone except for the last holdouts rested only on the seventh day. Or thereabouts.

The feasting, dancingand drinking would start on Christmas day after gifts to unwrap ran out. By nightfall people would go to practically every home in the village to wish a Merry Christmas and of course taste a sample of drink. Sometimes home brewed. After a few living rooms and kitchen tables, at last, they would find courage to kiss fifty percent of the population full on the lips. With a tongue or two thrown in forthe coming new year. By Boxing Day morning people would start to run out of people to greet and kiss so they would greet and kiss them again if they enjoyed it the first time. The ones who weren’t so lucky didn’t mind cause they knew they would get theirs again after midnight on the first of January. Guaranteed.

I remember the first time I participated in this yearly ritual. I was doing the rounds with a group of friends with a stolen bottle. Between the four or five of us we had kissed

maybe four girls in our young lives and we hadn’t been kissed for months. We met a couple of the older village girls on their rounds. They stopped and greeted us and, as was required of them, they gave each of usa peck. Except for one who gave me some tongue action. To make an embarrassing story short, I followed her around for the rest of the night until she ditched me for an older guy. Merry Christmas for sure.

After five more days of merrymaking with few rest periods, New Year’s Eve finally arrived. The shotguns and boxes of three-inch Imperial shells were readied for midnight when St. Nick and his caribou would be shot out of the night sky. At least that’s what they used to tell the kids. The most rowdy would aim for powerlines screaming, “Happy New Year!” Some would throw their empties up and blast them with a few fast pumps. Finally, half an hour later the last few bangs would die down. The shells spent. Children would run around collecting the empty casings.

After bringing in the New Year, the feasting, dancing and drinking would rage until everything was finished and people couldn’t celebrate anymore. Then everyone would go home to their presents and family to recover and make plans for next year’s celebration.

That’s the way it used to be friends. Happy New Year and here’s hoping that’s the way itwas for you this year except for the ditching part and don’t forget, drink

plenty of liquids.