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Polish Christmas: a religious experience

Posted on: 25/12/2007

Hello everyone,

Is been a while since I don’t write something in this blog. And many things have happened since then: I finished my internship in Warsaw but I am still living here. I changed the course of my professional life: Now I teach languages and I love it! 🙂 My hair is much longer and I am still the same, just happier every day. Out of my window I can see some snow and the temperature is around -4 Centigrade degrees.
Yesterday was my first Christmas Eve away from Venezuela and from my family. But even though it was a very different experience it was great! My Santa Claus (or Baby Jesus, who we believe in Venezuela brings the presents in Christmas) arrived one day earlier than usual. My friends and I could not resist opening all of our presents that were under the Christmas tree. Woody, how I’ve named the tree, comes in a pot so it still has its roots and I plan to plant him in January to continue the Growing Life custom.
Luis, Peter, Herni and I exchanged our presents. Daniel, from Romania, was around here so he also gave and received some presents…My dear Asia who was and still is in China did not join us (ooobviously) but she will get her presents from the three wise kings in January!
Our presents included a lot of IT stuff (both Peter and Luis work in that field and they have influence on us!). My presents were more than I expected. A laptop which I had already planned to buy and saved the money for it!! 😀 A web cam for my laptop and a beautiful set of pink eye shadows. Luis got a tie, a sweater and a control remote helicopter. Herni got a purse and headphones for her computer; and Peter a shirt, a computer game and also a control remote helicopter.
Then, the next day came the real Christmas celebration. Luis and I were invited to Kasia’s place where all her family was. There were also three Venezuelan mates, the three of them from Maracaibo, so some how I felt at home with all the Spanish speaking around me, just with this funny accent and slang from Maracaibo 😀 (Kasia knows what that means, she lived there for one year, so she is half polish and half maracucha!).
Now, what was the celebration like? The most calm Christmas celebration I’ve ever had. The first one without meat and without alcohol. And the most: the most religious and movie-like ever. And I’m telling you, I do believe in God but I am not that religious, but it was a great experience! Let me give you the details:
There was a long square table around which all of us stood up. There were candles, one for each one, and we lit them. One member of the family started reading a passage of the Bible. After finishing it each one of us received a piece of Host. With it we approached to each person in the room who took a piece from our Host and we let them take a piece from ours and give our wishes and blessing for this Christmas and for next year. We did it with everyone: around 17 people. After that all the polish ones sang a Christmas carol (we were not able to do it, he) and the dinner started. According to the tradition there should be twelve different dishes, each one representing one of the 12 Apostle. But I am telling you, there were definitely more than twelve. We were all so full after the sixth one. None of them had meat other than fish. Also a lot of vegetables. There were Greek fish, fried fish, eggs, salads, cakes, natural juice (kompot), potatoes…soooo many more things. A lot of joking and talking while eating.
After eating the presentation of the presents started. One member of the family will take them all and will call the name of the person in the card of the present. As it is suppose to be Santa Claus who brings them we knew the receiver but not the giver (Yes, is true! grow up! Santa does not exist!). The person receiving the present had to sing something or say a poem or dance or whatever in order to actually get it. That was SOOO much fan. I sang an English Christmas Carol (Jingle bells) to get mine. Kasia danced salsa. Grandma said a looooong story in Polish. Bernaliz (from Maracaibo) said a tongue twister in Spanish and the boys sang Los Pollitos dicen (also in Spanish). This was one of the greatest times of the night. So nice! So different from what I’m used to!
After that we all talked in small groups all around the table about anything and everything.
The tradition says that if you eat all the twelve dishes (or the 25!!) you will be able to understand what the animals say at night! The guys were already not only understanding the animals but also Chavez and George W. Bush, hihihi. I was wondering how is it that people can hold until midnight when you are suppose to go to a mass (“Misa del Gallo” in Venezuela, but we don’t really do that anymore). After so much eating what you feel like doing is sleeping!!
But it was great, great, great!
I came home almost at midnight. I was dying!! There was only one thing that brought me back to life…and that thing I can feel inside right now and I am wearing its symbol at the moment too!
And engagement ring!! that came with the best part of the package: a two years old relationship with a beautiful Venezuelan gentlemen 🙂
And because of this and all the rest, my Christmas was a religious experience!!
Some advice before finishing: guys get out of your reality and start enjoying new ones. The result: you will learn, you will grow, you will have fun and your reality will become the whole world!
P.S. I’m glad I made you see your own customs that way Ola! Many people has taught me how to see my country and our customs from their eyes and it is great!
And to everyone! I forgot to mention that on the table there was an empty place setting for anyone who did not have where or who with to spend this special day. It is also part of the tradition. Thanks for reminding me of it Eliza! And also thanks for your wishes! I hope I’ll dream and live until the day I die 😉

3 comentarios to "Polish Christmas: a religious experience"

Mary, what an amazing article. I related to your experience sooooo much, because I actually just lived something similar in Morocco 3 days ago, but the difference is that it was not a holiday that I know (a Muslim one), so it was even more mysterious and amazing for me.And you know what… You made me really homesick now 😉 But it’s a good feeling. Because you described some traditions that my family forgot, and that i never paid attention to. I saw through your eyes how polish Christmas Eve should look like, and how much it actually means for me. I’m not very religious too, but the feeling that you called “religious” – i can relate to it so much and… I don’t know, just ‘thank you”!

Hey! I’m sooo happy you enjoyed our Polish Christmas celebrations!:)Yes, the Xmas Eve dinner in my family looks similar to what you described (well, maybe without hectic discussions about Chavez and Bush;) but Kaczynscy would be there instead;)). There is one more thing to the tradition you didn’t mention: was there one extra plate on the table for an unexpected guest that might come during that magic night? Most families put it also:)My Christmas Eve in Jaipur lacked religious elements this year (I missed it a bit), but come on, where else in the world would you have pasta, jam & banana pancakes, Indian sweets and banana battle for Xmas Eve?;)I support your words with my whole heart that we should get out of our reality at least once in our life and experience things differently than usual. Even if it’s a bit sad sometimes without the dearest ones.Last but not least: Congratulations about the Venezuelan gentleman and the engagement ring!!! All this sounds like a dream… I wish you both all the best – may you never wake up;) hugs

Oh Maria I think this is the first post who I read in english, I’m learning it, and maybe I’m writing spanglish (what I always do).
I was used to read first your spanish post, but I readed this and is just awesome!
I saw than is too diferent the polish christmas, I like a lot read your blog, thanks for share your experiences 🙂


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