Holidays at the Hubbell

Community turns out for the annual decking of the post

By Cindy Yurth
Tseyi' Bureau

GANADO, Ariz., December 13, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Santa Claus listens to a young girl tell him what she would like for Christmas last Thursday evening. Volunteers lit more than 700 luminaries around the Hubbell Trading Post grounds in Ganado.

SECOND FROM TOP: Kids of all ages wait their turn to meet Santa Claus at Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado.

O nce a year, the Hubbell Trading Post looks much as it looked back when Lorenzo Hubbell owned it. Which is to say, teeming with Navajos.

As they have every year since 1991, about 300 Diné, mostly from Ganado and environs, packed the National Historic Site's visitor center last Thursday evening after watching staff and volunteers light more than 700 luminaries around the grounds.

Inside, there was hot cider and coffee, cookies and nuts, a Santa for the children and raffles for the adults.

"Lorenzo might have gone us one better and hired mariachis," laughed the site's Chief of Interpretation, Ailema Benally.

But the crowd of jovial locals was quite content to listen to the Ganado High School Student Council regale them with Christmas carols.

Unlike much of what you can see at Hubbell, the annual celebration is not, strictly speaking, historically accurate.

"We have photos of the post decorated for Christmas," said Curator Ed Chamberlain. "But you only see small groups of people. We don't have any evidence the Hubbells did something like this, inviting the whole community."

On the other hand, said Benally, there's no evidence they didn't.

"This is where people would come to socialize," she said. "Navajos have historically lived far apart. We love to come to things like this, where we can be part of a crowd and run into people we haven't seen in a while."

That was certainly the case Thursday, with old friends and relatives laughing and hugging.

"I love to bring my little nephews out here," said Larrick Mark of Ganado as he watched the children frolic against the dancing light of the luminarias. "It's a nice tradition."

Although his organization sponsors the event, it was the first time Ron Polasek, president of Friends of Hubbell, and his wife, Marge, had come to help light luminarias and be a part of the festive crowd.

Whether or not the Hubbells threw a Christmas party, Polasek said, the event definitely captures the spirit of the old trading post.

"This was a place of welcome for both Navajos and travelers," he said. "Friends of Hubbell is happy to be part of this."

For the post's part, "We're really grateful Friends of Hubbell makes it possible for us to host a special event where we acknowledge and appreciate the community," Chamberlin said. "It's nice to be able to invite them to a nice social event where we can enjoy each other's company."

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