Xmas 2004



Ahhh.... Christmas.  Always enjoyed it as a kid. Still enjoy it as an adult. My perspective has maybe changed a bit, but I still bake too much, cook too much, and eat too much, though in a bit more moderation now. 

This page contains three things, pictures from Christmas 2004, reflections on Polish Christmas customs, and reflections on Christmas memories that I have.  Enjoy!

Pictures -- Christmas 2004

I love decorating outside for Christmas, and this year was no exception.  White seemed to be the outside theme this year, with just a splash of color
You can see I had "just a few" lights on the Christmas tree this year.  Well over a thousand. I had to go out and buy some more as I ran out as I was putting up the tree!
Another view. I guess nearly more than anything else, the Christmas tree is the symbol of the Christmas holiday season.
Cookie central.
Did you know that if you bake the letter N upside down, it becomes a "z"?
Pierogi central. Made about 100 pierogi this year, in three types: sauerkraut with mushrooms, potatoes and cheese, and savory cheese.  Now who's gonna eat them all?
Christmas Celebration at my house, December 23rd:
The table is decorated for my Christmas dinner, held December 23rd. 

Above: some views of my Christmas decorations

Creighton, preparing to take a few photos before we eat.
Mike and Rick, waiting for us to get the danged pictures over with so we can all eat.
Marcelo, contemplating.
Larry couldn't make it for dinner, but joined us later
Me along with Rick and Creighton, relaxing on the porch. This is Florida, after all!
Christmas Day celebration at Creighton's--December 25th, 2004
The table all set.  10 of us eventually demolished the nice setting and ate a good portion of a 14 pound prime rib, a huge whole ham, spinach salad, fruit salad, potatoes, green bean casserole, and a multitude of accompaniments. No one went away hungry!
Creighton's Christmas tree.  This gorgeous tree has 1800 lights on it and lights up the room all by itself.  If there was a magazine devoted to Christmas trees, this one would appear on the cover!
Creighton and Rick, pondering the workings of a camera.
Hope and Joe, Creighton's sister-in-law and brother. The came over for the holidays from their winter home in Land of Lakes, Florida.
Marcelo and Rick in Creighton's den.  There were 10 of us gathered and a great time was had by all.

Polish Christmas Customs

I sent the following to a yahoo group that deals with Clark County geneaolgy:

I will pass on some of my family's Christmas traditions.
My great-grandmother was Polish, from Skalat, now in the Ukraine, then a part of Galicia.  When I was young (very young), I remember going to my Grandmother's house in rural Thorp (town of Withee) to celebrate Christmas. My grandmother passed on the traditions she learned from her mother. So eastern Poland traditions, I guess. My mother and my family observe many of these traditions to this day, as do I at home as well.
For Christmas Eve: We'd have a meatless meal. The high point (to me) as pierogi...kind of like large ravioli.  A noodle-like dough, stuffed with either sauerkraut and a few mushrooms, or with a mixture of potatoes and cottage cheese.  The Sauerkraut Pierogi were garnished with fried onions. The Potato-cheese ones with sour cream.  We also had fish, potatoes,a huge bowl of mushrooms (home picked and canned), canned fruit.....and a number of other accompaniments. I mostly remember the pierogi (mmmmm).
As a part of the meal, at the beginning, we'd share the Oplatek.  It's a thin communion-like wafer, broken into pieces, one for each. The head of the house (my grandpa) would say some sort of prayer (in Polish) and we'd all have to respond (in Polish) as well. The prayer was for health blessings, and the response was an affirmation of that. Then we'd dip the oplatek in honey and eat it.  It always seemed a very rich ritual and I do it to this day, though I don't know the  actual polish that went with it.
After dishes were done we'd open presents (and this was the best part for us kids). It was always a lot of fun and there were a lot of family there. Through the course of the evening, other family may have dropped in for a short visit, too. One year, Santa Claus even visited (though my sister noticed that "Santa" was wearing the same boots that Uncle Joe wore...and Uncle Joe was mysteriously absent....!
At midnight, we'd go to midnight mass at "old" St. Hedwig's in the country.  It was a beautiful church. The mass would be in Latin and Polish, and the Christmas carols all in Polish, led by a beautiful choir. Church was always quite full. To this day, I love listening to Polish Christmas carols.  It was a very formal and solemn mass, and very beautiful. 
After mass, we'd return home and eat again and have snacks. According to my mother, we'd also have golubki... pigs in a blanket, I guess you'd call them. Meat and rice wrapped in cabbage and baked with a bit of tomato sauce. This is the Catholic tradition of breaking the fast (though for this occasion it was only fasting from midnight until about an hour later...!).
In the morning, we kids would get up and open our presents left overnight by Santa. Then, of course, we'd eat again.  And on Christmas day, we'd usually do some visiting or have relatives drop by. There was always lots of food. And thankfully, leftover pierogi, too!
Christmas was always a very big deal in my Polish family, and we continue many of the traditions to this day.

Reflections on Christmas memories

I sent the following reflections on Christmas memories to my family on Christmas eve....

Seems like a good time for me to write down some of the Christmas memories I have.
I remember being gathered at Granma and Granpa Szczech's for Christmas Eve. Granpa said the Polish prayer for the passing of the Oplatek, and then we all had to respond "dai boze milosierdzie." The prayer was a prayer for health and prosperity and god's blessings on us and the family. 
I remember going to midnight mass at the old St. Hedwig's church, and hearing the choir sing Polish Christmas carols--Koledy.  It was a beautiful service, a solemn high mass I guess.  Mostly in latin, but also parts in Polish (how could I tell the difference??).  And a 15 minute Polish sermon would the be given also in English--but would mercifully have shrunk to only about 5 minutes. 
I remember the Christmas when Donna was born. In retrospect, the best Christmas present ever! 
I remember snooping under mom and dad's bed one year before Christmas, there to discover the ice skates I was going to get.  Couldn't wait to open that present!
I remember the Christmas Eve and Granpa and Granma's when Uncle Joe played Santa Claus. Jean noticed that he was wearing Uncle Joe's boots.  Well, of course, I believe we did manage to put two and two together, but kept quiet for the sake of George, Mary, and Donna (who, I believe, to this day, believe that there is a Santa Claus and that he visited the farm that night!).
I remember a few years ago when I was up before Christmas, and making pierogi with Jean in her kitchen.  Was a good time, for sure.
I remember one year when George and I were counting the pierogi we ate. I believe I surpassed 12!  (Last night I had 3--one of each). 
I remember how Donna always had to have the mushrooms, and we'd tease her and pass them to everyone else first....but there were always enough for here (sorry, Donna, but it was our cheap entertainment).
I also remember spending one Christmas Day evening alone in Milwaukee.  Was not a lot of fun, but I did make the best of it.
I'll miss you all tonight but be thinking of you. 
Merry Christmas,
with love,

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