In modern society Christmas is celebrated in many different ways. For some it's a religious holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, for others it's a holiday to celebrate with gifts. Whether for religious or cultural reasons, the common thread for all that celebrate Christmas across the globe is the coming together to spend time and celebrate with family and friends.
In traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture Christmas was not celebrated but coming together and celebrating as a mob was, and continues to be, an important aspect of culture. While held for varied reasons, these events helped in defining identity and a sense of connectedness to kinship and culture, strengthening the mob through feelings of spiritual and cultural belonging.
Traditional reason for coming together for ceremonies and gatherings included:
Welcome to Country: In traditional times an Aboriginal person would not travel between groups without permission. If permission was granted the mob accepting travellers would formally welcome their visitors with a welcome ceremony. This welcome would tell the spirits of the land that the traveller came in peace and asked them to protect the traveller while on the traditional lands.
Smoking Ceremony: Smoking ceremonies are traditionally a cleansing ceremony. Various native plants are collected and burned to produce smoke which is believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off unwanted and bad spirits.
Corroborees: Corroborees are ceremonial meetings for mobs to interact with the Dreaming through singing, dancing, costume, and artistic expression.
Sorry Business: Sorry business refers to protocols around the death of an Aboriginal person. There are very intricate Dreaming ceremonies to help a spirit leave the earth after death. Traditionally the ceremonies around death varied between clans. How the body was prepared and farewelled was significant to ensuring the spirit made safe passage back to the Dreaming.
Trade: Traditionally trading was a time for sharing ideas, technology and culture, it was a time to catch up with other mobs for both business and leisure.
Download our free "Ceremonies and Gatherings" find-a-word PDF for your class to see what other ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people traditionally came together in celebration.
You can also explore this topic in more depth with the following lessons found on Wingaru Kids:
Wingaru Education believes that all children should have access to quality education about Aboriginal people and culture.