Well, it's here.
Christmas has officially arrived!
All the preparation and anticipation comes down to the next couple days . . . or at least in our family. As with so many families, our celebration starts tonight gathering with Hubby's family to participate in our version of the traditional Polish Wigilia.
Below, I'm reposting the story of The Wigilia.
I do want to take a minute to wish each and every one of you the most blessed Christmas.
I have so appreciated your readership, comments and most importantly the bonds that have been created with several of you over the past year. The connections that have been made through blogging have been so inspiring. I feel I've made new friends . . . pen pals if you will . . . through blogging. I do appreciate your readership, but most of all I appreciate your blogging talents and how you share a bit of yourselves with your blogs. This world of blogging can be a wonderfully inspiring place!
Happy Christmas Eve to you all!
Treasure and cherish each moment spent with family and friends these next few days.
Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia!
That's Polish for Merry Christmas.
Among Poles, wherever they are, the most beloved and beautiful of all traditional festivities is that of Christmas Eve. It is then that the Wigilia, (literally meaning "vigil") or Christmas Eve Dinner, is served. It is a solemnly celebrated occasion and arouses deep feelings of kinship among family members.
For days in advance, Poles prepare the traditional foods and everyone anxiously awaits the moment when the first star, known as the Gwiazdka, appears in the eastern sky. For that is when the feast to commemorate the birth of the Christ Child begins.
There is always a thin layer of hay under the white tablecloth in memory of the Godchild in the manger. Before sitting down at the table, everyone breaks the traditional wafer, or Oplatek and exchanges good wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the New Year. This is such a deeply moving moment that often tears of love and joy are evoked from the family members who are breaking this symbolic bread. The Oplatek is a thin, unleavened wafer similar to the altar bread in the Roman Catholic Church. It is stamped with the figures of the Godchild, the blessed Mary, and the holy angels. The wafer is known as the bread of love and is often sent by mail to the absent members of the family.
The dinner itself is fixed at seven, nine or eleven items. According to myth, in no case must there be an odd number of people at the table, otherwise it is said that some of the feasters would not live to see another Christmas. A lighted candle in the windows symbolizes the hope that the Godchild, in the form of a stranger, may come to share the Wigilia and an extra place is set at the table for the unexpected guest. This belief stems from the ancient Polish adage, "A guest in the home is God in the home."
image found at Flickr
The Wigilia is a meatless meal, no doubt the result of a long-time Church mandate that a strict fast and abstinence be observed on this day before Christmas. Although the Church laws have been revised and permit meat to be eaten on this day, the traditional meal remains meatless. Items that would normally be included in a traditional Wigilia menu include mushroom soup, boiled potatoes (kartofle), pickled herring (sledzie), fried fish, pierogi, beans and sauerkraut (groch i kapusta), a dried fruit compote, babka, platek, assorted pastries, nuts and candies.
(above text borrowed from http://www.polishamericancenter.org/Wigilia.htm)
Hubby and I took over the Wigilia dinner after the passings of his grandmother and then aunt. His uncle continued the tradition for several years, but it became too much for him. We were honored to keep the tradition alive.
When he and I first started dating over 30 years ago, I'd never seen anything like this gathering. I came from a small family with relatives scattered across the country, so our holidays were always very small, very intimate. There would be 30 or more people crammed into his grandmother's teeny house in the Polish section of the city. Everyone laughing, talking over one another, feasting on delicious homemade Polish food.
The complexion of the dinner has since changed. Quite a few family members have passed, grandchildren, cousins, gone their separate ways. The menu's changed a bit. Since we've taken over, we no longer have fried flounder, which Hubby hated, but crab cakes instead. His father has taken over the job of making pierogies (ohhh, so yummy!) the way his grandmother did all those years ago. The family keeps "threatening" me that I'm going to have to learn the recipe and start making them!
Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia!
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