Celebrating Christmas The Polish Way
Points to ponder
If your family has drifted away from the Wigilia heritage, maybe it’s high time to recall and rediscover what you have been missing. Now is the time to read up about it. “Must” reads include Father Czesław Krysa’s “A Polish Christmas Eve” and the Polanie Club’s classic “Treasured Polish Customs and Traditions”. Or simply Google “Polish Christmas traditions.”
To preserve our customs and pass them down to the next generation it is important to “start ‘em young.” With the forces of all-pervasive commercialism trying to turn the season into one, big shopping spree and telling kids Christmas is mainly about getting presents, be sure not to fall into that trap. Instead of making a big fuss about shopping for presents, wrapping presents, hiding presents and opening presents on Christmas morning ,try to re-focus your kids’ attention on the unique, almost magical nature of Wigilia – its unforgettable customs, once-a-year delicacies and colorful lore.
Tell your kids that Christmas is about giving, not just wrapped or bagged gifts, but sharing one’s time, effort and goodwill with those less fortunate. Get the young ones involved in preparing a package of holiday delicacies for a needy family. Or teach them the words to a kolęda or two and take them caroling to a nursing home. If there are enough kids in the family encourage them to stage a nativity play and provide the necessary hints and pointers..
The same goes for Wigilia which should not be just something arranged by grownups. Make sure that even your preschoolers have a hand in its preparation. That will make them feel more a part of what is happening. Whether they help with the actual cooking, and baking, help set the table or just watch for the evening’s first star—the sign for the festivities to begin—chances are the Wigilia traditional will remain a part of their life-long childhood memories.
By Robert Strybel
Polish / Polonian Affairs Writer