Polish Christmas Eve: A Precious Memory

As remembered by Gwen Foster, my mother-in-law…

first-starIn the rural areas of Poland, festivity began when the first star (representing the Star that appeared over Bethlehem so long ago) shone in the sky and the guests tried to arrive at the home of the host at that hour. However, the progress of the 20th century (along with the general exodus from rural to city) encouraged hosts to set the arrival time closer to 6 p.m. here in Canada.

Guests were greeted by the host, who kissed each arrival lightly on each cheek – a “holy” kiss of welcome, Mike said. [Ed. - my late father, who was Polish.]

After the usual chit-chat, guests were seated around the dining table. At each place there was a tiny glass of wine and a wafer, which had come all the way from Poland. It was, in fact, a Communion wafer, so that a simple family Eucharist took place. We all stood as a blessing was invoked – sometimes by Mike in Polish, sometimes in English by my husband, Alex… and sometimes all together by joining hands and repeating the Lord’s Prayer. Then we sat and broke our piece of wafer, which we exchanged with the person seated next to us.

Following this introduction, the meal proceeded with steaming bowls of barszcz, upon which pierogies of cabbage or meat were floated.

This sumptuous ethnic feast was followed by a dessert that was totally British! Mike’s wife, Eleanor, prepared the English Trifle for dessert because she wanted her traditions to be included too. It was super, and the only English Trifle which ever satisfied Alex.  Following this meal, we adjourned to the living room, where a decorated Canadian Christmas tree bore small gifts (which reminded us that Christmas is of itself a heavenly gift.)

brotherly-hugsAfter this gift exchange and socializing, we left to go our separate ways; and every year I mused that when Poland, Canada and Britain came together in this way, it showed the unity of peace about which the angels sang in that starlit sky, so long ago – a unity which can still be seen in a simple multi-national family group even as it was sung by the angels so many long years ago.

It remains a precious memory.

(Wesolych Swiat, Everyone!)

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  1. 1
    Margaret Says:

    Do you know how to make Polish paper Christmas ornaments, and are there any patterns available? I would love to learn, but unfortunatly most of my Polish ancestors are now deceased. I have found pictures of them, but no patterns.

  2. 2
    admin Says:

    Hello Margaret, Unfortunately my relatives are all deceased too – and this is the first I’ve heard of Polish paper Christmas ornaments! We did make paper ornaments when I was little, but I don’t know that they were especially Polish.

    Something new to learn! (If I figure out the patterns, I’ll post again here!)

    Thanks for writing

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