In the midst of the festive season, where twinkling lights and colorful decorations dominate the scenery, it’s important to remember the true meaning of Christmas: unconditional love and generosity. At St. Joseph’s Indian School, this spirit comes alive through many ways, but one special way is the Christmas Store. This heartwarming tradition not only brings joy to the Native American children who call St. Joseph’s home, but it also serves as a way to bless our students’ families — spreading a glimmer of Christmas magic across reservation communities in South Dakota.
You see, the holidays are not always the picture-perfect scenes we see depicted in holiday movies. In fact, for Native American people living in poverty, it can be a very difficult season. Therefore, St. Joseph’s steps forward in the spirit of sharing. After all, on the night Jesus was born, three wise men journeyed to bring gifts to the newborn king. What better time for our students to model generosity than during Christmas?!
A Festive Tradition
As St. Joseph’s receives donations throughout the year, they are sorted with care in the effort to make sure all of our students’ needs are met. Sometimes there are excess supplies and gifts. Many of these items find a new purpose at the St. Joseph’s Christmas Store. The store is a captivating place for wide-eyed children excited to shop. Rows and rows of shelves are stocked with toys, clothing, books, blankets and trinkets, all carefully organized and ready to be chosen as precious gifts.
At no cost to them, students carefully choose gifts they believe would bring joy to their loved ones. For instance, an older brother carefully considers a football for his younger sibling, hoping to share the in joy of childhood play. A girl with a passion for art thoughtfully selects a set of paints for her creative cousin. The children take their time, reflecting on the unique interests and desires of their family members as they search for the perfect gift.
“I’m looking for something blue for my dad because blue is his favorite color!” said Rayne, a St. Joseph’s student.
“I’m getting my five-year-old brother a stuffed teddy bear,” said another student, Kayley. “I think he will like to cuddle with it!”
Once the children have chosen their treasures, they take them to the wrapping station where colorful paper and shiny ribbons await to transform the modest gifts into something extraordinary. Their little hands work diligently, wrapping each present with care and affection with assistance from staff members (“elves”). Excitement and anticipation are tangible — giddy laughter fills the room, festive music is played and even a visit with Old Saint Nick himself takes place.
“I got my mom a blanket because it looks cozy and soft!” said Athena, a St. Joseph’s student.
After all the gifts are wrapped and the fun-filled day has ended, the children have a few more days to wait until they head back to their reservation homes for winter break. But when that day comes, they carry the spirit of Christmas and the joyous memories back to their families.
The humble presents may not have hefty price tags, but they are priceless in the eyes of those receiving them. The beaming smiles on Christmas morning are a testament to the generosity that made the Christmas Store possible. For without the kindness of others, such scenes may have otherwise not occurred.
Philámayaye — thank you — for helping the children at St. Joseph’s Indian School experience the powerful impact of spreading love within their families and communities. This beautiful tradition serves as a touching reminder that, even in the face of poverty, the magic of Christmas can still brighten hearts and spirits.