Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

I must say, this year’s Christmas was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had, the best in a long time at least. And I don’t think it has differed oh so much tradition-wise from the past few Christmases, maybe my partakedness. (Wow, you know I’m forgetting my English when I start making up words. Traditionwise and partakedness? What is this Joanna!?) [1]

A big part of what made this Christmas awesome, though, was family. I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve missed out on the whole extended family thing my entire life. I’ve never spent a Christmas with any family other than my two parents and two sisters. This year, spending it with my dad (who flew in from Canada), sister (who is here with me in Krakow) my aunt, great-aunt, grandma, and two cousins was something new and it felt really special. Actually the whole week was special. I’ve learned more about my family and their history than I have in the past few months. My dad’s presence in Poland just released a string of reminiscing for my family. I endlessly heard stories about what it was like under communistic Poland, about my dad and aunt’s youth, about my grandma’s and great-aunt’s youth, about even their parents, which I really don’t know much about. I really enjoying listening to their stories, not only because it gives me a better understanding of the way my family came to be, but because it gives me more depth into Poland’s history, particularly during the Cold War period. I took a semester of History last year, focusing on the 1900’s, and thoroughly enjoyed the class. I really do love history. But what’s great is my family, my own parents, lived through those times, and were involved. I also become more insightful, though not as much at the elders of course, of how times have changed. The times are really freaking different these days.

Back to Christmas! And back to the beginning. Christmas already started to feel different months ago. By that, I mean, it didn’t feel like Christmas yet at all. In Canada, you will start seeing ads for Christmas, commercials, products, chocolates, decorations in October. I swear I see my first Christmas commercial every year in September. It’s ridiculous! Christmas is so commercialised, so advertised, so… fake. Movies paint the scene, Santa Claus holds up his Good and Naughty Lists, presents and decorations explode everywhere you look, and Christmas-stress beats down on you. Yes, that is a thing. The shops are filled with people searching for present after present, for months. But particularly dozens of presents for kids.

I’m not saying Poland is an exception to that, but I can attest that it is significantly less. Mountains less. Continents less. Sorry, I do think it is a difference of continents though. North America vs. Europe. And there are some amazing traditions that Poland upholds. I love how filled with tradition Poland is. Granted, my family celebrated Christmas the same way back home, but the atmosphere is different when it’s the whole of the country doing it with you.

I think the whole of Christmas unravels the week before Christmas. You set up your Christmas tree a week earlier at the earliest. We set ours up a day before Christmas. Family starts arriving. We spend time together. And the cooking begins. Cooking, at least by my observation, is the focus. And I enjoyed every part of it. Traditionally, there are 12 courses on Christmas. Granted, there are many to chose from and the number starts to vary towards people’s preferences. And this isn’t your every Sunday kind of dinner, these are your once-a-year meals. On Christmas. So the process takes days to cook everything, to prepare everything. And it’s a time for the whole family to work together, back to back, all day, kneading out that dough for perogies, making those ears for barszcz, baking pies (we brought in some Canadian desserts to the delight of our family), etcetera. It is backbreaking, time consuming, frustrating work, enjoyable, yet stressful. Can we prepare all this food before 5pm? Christmas day (that is, the twenty-fourth, when the big Christmas dinner is held) was insane. Everyone got up hours earlier, and hauled away. I ate breakfast at ten, and I swear I didn’t sit down or eat again till dinner time. We were all so consumed with cooking that I didn’t even notice I was so hungry until we sat down. And that is how it should be. The satisfaction you feel sitting down, to this amazing dinner, that everyone worked towards, was immeasurable.

Except, as soon as we all sat down, we stood up. Because, one of my favourite things about Christmas, it’s time for skladania zycenia! What this basically means is the exchange of wishes between one another. Everyone has a piece of bread (ceremonial bread, alike to the kind a priest breaks over the alter) and one-on-one exchanges greetings. It’s really special. This isn’t your casual, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, this is saying all the things you always wanted to or wished you could say to the person. Your thoughts and feelings tie in to it, and you heartily wish people the best. I came close to tears a few times, and was really moved by some of the things said to me.

Afterwards, we eat this 12-course dinner. Bloated, there is barely energy for dealing with dessert, let alone opening presents. (Unlike the ritual of North America, presents are opened traditionally after dinner on the twenty-fourth.) But we somehow managed. Kolendy, that is, Christmastime carols are sung; and Poland has some really great songs. Old, traditional, religious, and beautiful. Presents are opened z przyjemnoscia. We thank each other (though when I was a child, I believed the Star brought presents), and get back to the singing, talking, laughing, spending time with each other, and celebrating of Christmas.

I really truly felt happy this Christmas. Previous Christmases were spent stressed out and among a family that wasn’t really together a family. This year it felt real, complete, and joyful and, well, like a Christmas I never really knew.

Joanna


[1] *thinks a while* partakedness = participation. Traditionwise……..traditionally? Facepalm.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »