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The event begins with the firing of a rifle to the east, west, north and south, as a way of inviting deceased ancestors to come join the feast. (Julie Debeljak/CBC) Hundreds of people from the Tsuut’ina First Nation and Calgary gathered Thursday for a giant meal and a chance to get to know one another — a tradition that’s been taking place for more than 80 years.

The annual Christmas Feast and Procession started in the early 1930s as a way of building community, said Tsuut’ina Chief Lee Crowchild, and it continues to this day.

"It was about establishing kinship, acknowledging who our families were and also inviting the city of Calgary to be part of this," the chief said of the origins of the event. Tsuut’ina Chief Lee Crowchild discusses the origins of the annual feast and procession. (Julie Debeljak/CBC) About 900 people were expected for the meal, Crowchild said, which was held this year at the new Grey Eagle Entertainment Centre on Calgary’s southwestern periphery.

"We have much more people from Calgary coming out and that’s really what we want to do — extend our hands to Calgary and say this is who we are," he said.

The chief and band council act as hosts of the event, bringing their extended families with them. Guests sit down to enjoy the food at the annual feast. (Julie Debeljak/CBC) "We do it every year to support our grandpa Lyle," said Ethan Dodginghorse, whose grandfather is a Tsuut’ina councillor.

"It’s good to see the whole reserve come together."

Amanda Simon brought her eight children — dressed to the nines in tuxedos and dress shirts and ties — to this year’s feast.

"They are so excited, and every feast day they know to wake up early and start getting ready," she said.

"It’s also creating unity. That’s what the community is about, right? And that’s what we’re trying to enhance." Feast guests embrace as they arrive at the community get-together. (Julie Debeljak/CBC) The event also honours deceased ancestors, beginning with the firing of a rifle to the east, west, north and south outside the venue.

"What that does is it invites all our ancestors to come and join us in this time of sharing our food together," Crowchild explained.

"It’s a time for us to acknowledge those who have passed. And it’s a time to call all the future generations to come forward."

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