Some of my favorite traditions from John's family are during Christmas. Lucky for us, his traditions are mostly on Christmas Eve and my family's were on Christmas day, so we've been able to blend them all together nicely. :) His parent's are from the Bytom and Nowy Targ regions in southern Poland, so these traditions might be different if you know people from Northern Poland.
1. Christmas Eve in Polish is Wigilia (vey-gill-ee-ah). There are a lot of little superstitions for the day - waking up late on Wigilia means you'll be late to everything in the coming year, you always have change in your pocket so you'll have finances throughout the year, etc. So there's a lot of pressure to wake up early and in a good mood! ;) It is a day of relaxing, eating a huge dinner, and going to a Christmas Vigil celebration at church.
2. Before sitting down for dinner, our family exchanges oplatek (o-pwa-tek), which is a Christmas wafer. Each family member gets a wafer and works their way around the table to each person. We make amends, apologize for any wrongdoings, and wish them happiness and health in the upcoming year. Once everything is said, you break off a piece of their wafer while they break a piece off of yours. Then you can eat your piece and go to the next person. I love doing this, and Abby has already been practicing with the oplatek she found. :)
3. For food, it's all meatless. John's family always had the traditional Polish pierogi, beet soup, and pickled herring...which is really not up our alley. We still don't have meat - we have tilapia, vegetables, rice, and lots of dessert. :)
4. After dinner, the kids go outside with the dads to look for the Pierwsza Gwiazdka (first star in the sky), which symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. While the kids are occupied, the moms set up all the presents around the tree. For us, it's a little too cold to go outside, so John takes Abby and Tim to a room not by the tree (can't have them see the magic happening! ;)). We aren't doing all of our gifts on Christmas Eve, just new pajamas for everyone and a new book to read before bed. When the presents are ready, a bell is rung on the tree - this means Santa has come, and then the kids can come to the tree to open their presents!
5. Swiety Mikolaj is the Polish Santa Claus. We have a PNA (Polish National Alliance) chapter in our city, and every year we have a Wigilia party. This year, Abby was not so sure about Santa, but Tim loved him (mainly his beard!). This party is so much fun - we really look forward to it every year!!
|Tim and Santa at our city's Wigilia party :)|
What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Anyone else from a Polish family?? :)