Tribe welcomes guests to holiday open house

Sheri Gourd | Daily Press

Visitors to the Cherokee Nation Christmas Open House Tuesday had the opportunity to have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Pausing for a photo are, from left: Chayten Sanchez, 10 months; Tysen Sanchez, 2; and Lawanda Handle, Cherokee Nation Career Services special projects officer.

The Cherokee Nation held its annual Christmas Open House for four hours Tuesday at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, and decorations, trees and lights could be found down every hallway.

Around 500 adults and children visited, including students from the Cherokee Immersion School.

"Cherokee Nation's Christmas Open House has become a wonderful tradition - it's something our employees and citizens look forward to every year," said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. "It's a joy for us to continue this Christmas tradition, and we thank everyone who had a hand in making it another success."

The event was coordinated by Career Services, and over 30 volunteers were dressed in seasonal attire with festive hats, aprons, and elf shoes. The business technology and business trade students built the fireplace for the photo display area.

"A lot of effort goes into this every year," said Debra Lack, director of finance, CN Career Services. "It's a team effort."

Attendees of all ages had their photos taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and then got prints of the pictures to take home. Cookies and drinks were also available. The event was free and open to the public.

Lack said the day was about fellowship.

"It's important we focus on the community. It's another chance to bring the community together," said Lack, who recently celebrated 20 years with the tribe. "It gives them an opportunity to learn about the services and programs we offer."

Around a dozen Cherokee Nation departments had tables set up, and employees were ready to answer any questions visitors had. Many departments had giveaways or free items, such as pens, stickers, travel kits, and air fresheners.

Lawanda Handle, special projects officer, has been with Career Services for five years. She said they come up with a group theme each year.

"It's a special day because the kids love it, and that's what we do it for," said Handle. "The purpose is to have a fun day for the kids."

The Cherokee Nation will host other community events and activities this month. "A Cherokee Christmas" will be at the Heritage Center Saturday, Dec. 7, 1-6 p.m. The event is free, but take-and-make crafts will be $10.

The First Cherokee Christmas Exhibit will open Tuesday, Dec. 10, and run to Jan. 1 at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum in downtown Tahlequah. The exhibit features natural decorations and Moravian displays that were common in 1805, the year of the first Christmas celebration.

Before the Tahlequah parade on Friday, Dec. 13, Christmas on the Square will be held at the Cherokee National History Museum, 4-6 p.m. The activities will include photos with Santa and free cookies and hot chocolate.

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