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May 27, 2024

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Some Polish Christmas
Projects To Consider

By Robert Strybel
Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

“Jingle Bells” blaring from shopping-mall loudspeakers since October, frenzied Christmas shoppers, people rushing to put up Christmas trees  right after Thanksgiving. Also porches and gables decked out with colored lights and illuminated plastic reindeer, Santas and snowmen out on the lawn, Then there’s the rush to open presents on Christmas morning. Later in the day it’s that “big Christmas dinner”, often little more than a rerun of Thanksgiving……

Fortunately, our Polish Christmas heritage contains many things that can enrich and diversify our PolAm holiday routine. Here are a few projects to consider in your family, circle of friends, PolAm group or local community:

START ‘EM YOUNG: Things vary from family to family, and occasionally some teenagers become deeply interested in Polish traditions. By and large, however, the. most receptive and absorbent are preschoolers who have yet to become addicted to smartphones, tablets, MP3s and all that Pokémon nonsense, Younger kids are naturally curious, eager to explore new things and want ot be a part of what’s going on. Wherever possible, try to involve your kids or grandkids in some of the projects listed below.

ADVENT – HELPING THE NEEDY:  More than just shopping and house-cleaning the weeks ahead of Christmas are the ideal time to engage in charitable activities, and many youngsters are more than willing to help. Good deeds might include helping the elderly with shopping and driving them to the doctor’s as well as leaf-raking, snow-shoveling and other household chores. Laundered used clothing, personal hygiene products and sweets can be delivered to homeless shelters, and used but unbroken toys – to child-care homes (formerly known as orphanages). Christmas food parcels can be made up and delivered to poorer families in the neighborhood. Check with your parish or local social workers where your efforts would do the most good.

ŚWIĘTY MIKOŁAJ TO THE RESCUE: Unlike the world’s greatest sales promoter Santa, the real St Nicholas was known for anonymous good deeds without sticking around to be thanked. As such, he fits nicely into any charity projects, esepcially those providing gifts and treats to needy kids. Also consider holding Mikołajki, a St Nick’s Day Party,  on or around December 5th. or 6th  (his feastday).. Before passing out treats, the saintly bishop first quizzes kids on their good deeds, and behavior and may ask a child to say or sing a carol. Everything about st Nick can be found at: http://http://www.stnicholascenter.org.  You can even see this columnist in action at: .
http://www.stnicholascenter.org/galleries/events/156/

POLISH CHRISTMAS CRAFTS: These can include home-made tree ornaments fashioned from straw, colored paper, hollow egg-shells, etc.  The top 15” or so of an evergreen tree suspended from the ceiling point-side-down is known as a podłaźniczka  It is decorated much the same way as the Christmas tree but may contain more edibles: small apples, gilded walnuts, marzipan sweets in shimmering foil, etc. A real challenge is the shimmering Kraków Szopka (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krak%C3%B3w_szopka)
Other craft items include the pole-mounted carolers star and the costumes of caroler-masqueraders. Old-style home decorations include wycinanki (paper cutouts) and mobiles incorporating paper, straw and feathers. When fresh peas are strung and allowed to dry, they resemble strings of pearls which can also serve as decorative mobiles.

POLISH CHRISTMAS WORKSHOP: Wherever local interest exists, a December workshop could provide participants with hands-on experience creating Polish Christmas things. In addition to the crafts mentioned in preceding entry, it could also include hand-made Christmas cards, wood-carving and embroidery. Some of the popular kolędy could also be taught. Where facilities permit, the preparation of Polish Yuletide delicacies could be highlighted. It might suffice for such a workshop to meet 3-4 times before Christmas and possibly culminate in an opłatek gathering or a full-fledged Wigilia for participants and their families.

POLISH CHRISTM AS FAIR:  This heritage-promoting event is a good way to raise funds for a charity or other worthwhile Polonian cause. It provides the necessary supplies, artifacts and fixings to prepare Polish-style celebrations at home. In addition to opłatek, hay for the table-top, holiday decorations and gift items, food products and possibly fully cooked take-out delicacies could be offered. The event could be billed: “Polish Holiday Fair – Polski Jarmark Świąteczny”. Successful fund-raising requires getting a good discount on the goods you sell. For information, contact Polish Art Center at (313) 874-2242, toll-free: 888-619-9771 of email: raymond@polartcenter.com

OPŁATEK GATHERING: After Poland dumped communism in1989, opłatek meet-ups really took off. Held in schools, colleges, workplaces, hospitals, clubs, police stations, fire houses, etc. they require little cost and effort to organize. Not to be confused with a full-fledged, multi-course community Wigilia (opłatek-dinner), the opłatek gathering requires only the opłatek and some some light snacks. Entertainment is provided by people singing kolędy round a piano or a capella. This traditon is therefore definitely worth promoting across Polonia.

CAROLING PARTY: A group of friends, parishioners or club members can get together and visit neighbors house to house, singing favorite Polish and American carols. Thy can go in street dress or carry a caroler’s star and/or portable Christmas crib and don the outfits of Polish caroler-masqueraders. Such a group can stroll through the mall or visit children’s hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. Such kolędnicy will treat listeners to beautiful kolędy and spread Christmas cheer wherever they go. For a glimpse of Polish kolędnicy in action go to: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kol%C4%99dowanie

COMMUNITY WIGILIA: Unlike the opłatek gathering (above), this event is usually referred to in Polonia as “Opłatek Dinner” or “Opłatek Supper”. Typical Wigilia treats reign supreme including: pickled or creamed herring; mushroom noodle soup or clear red barszcz  with tiny mushroom-filled dumplings (uszka); fried fish; sauerkraut & mushrooms: pierogi; poppyseed-roll cake; and stewed dried fruit (kompot). The Opłatek Dinner may include a Christmas bazaar, nativity play, a visit by folk-attired Polish carolers or a kolędy sing-along. Showing YouTube footage of Polish Christmas customs is another possibility.

HIGH TECH TEACHES HERITAGE.
21st-century e-gadgetry can describe and graphically demonstrate the Polish Christmas heritage more vividly than ever before. Google “Polish Christmas tradition” or “Polish Christmas food” and you’ll be surprised at the number entries that show up. Or type in one of the dishes mentioned in this compilation, and numerous recipes will appear. Polish traditions can also be viewed on YouTube. Some examples:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB-L0x2Cm90

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chmKYAnJLt4

Also, Consider joining Facebook’s “Polish Culture, Food and Traditon” section or just net-surf and stumble upon. many interesting things you never knew. Before.