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Polish for a Day

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By Kimara - Posted on 08 December 2008

I have a strong Polish ancestry. With the possible exception of contamination from an amorous invader that I am unaware of, I am 100% Polish. (Poland's history is laced with invasion and occupation from...well, from just about all neighboring countries!) I think I'm fairly rare today...a fourth generation American with a pure blood heritage. It stopped with my children, however. Their father is...well, he's a mutt. Nothing wrong with that; mutts have many wonderful qualities including hardiness and longevity. But this does mean I can't share my pedigree with my children; they too are mutts! What I can share with them, however, is the few remaining vestiges of my Polish ancestry.

You would think with all this Polish blood pulsating through my veins that I would be well versed in the culture and traditions of Poland, but I'm not. Both my maternal and paternal great-grandparents were born in Poland and came here hoping to improve their lot in life. Like most immigrants, they settled with their own kind. They spoke Polish in their homes and amongst their friends. It was their children, my grandparents, that ventured out into the American melting pot and brought English into their homes. So, the progression was, my great-grandparents spoke predominantly Polish, my grandparents spoke Polish in their homes, but English everywhere else, my parents could read Polish and speak it well enough to converse with their grandparents but English had become their native language, and I, well the only Polish I know is this rather naughty song that some relative taught me, but it would prove useless if I needed to communicate with a Pole!

Polish traditions followed the trend of the Polish language, with each generation giving up a little more of their connection to their motherland, until now, I'm left with the cultural equivalent of a little naughty ditty! The only time my Polish ancestry surfaces is at Christmas dinner. I serve pierogi (stuffed dumplings), kielbasa (sausage), golabki (stuffed cabbage), makowki (poppy seed bread), kluski (thick buttered noodles), kapusta (sauerkraut), mizeria (cucumbers and sour cream) and sernik (cheese cake). If that sounds Greek to you, it does to me too! In our house we use the English words for most of these foods.

The lovely thing about Christmas dinner, besides some seriously delicious food, is my connection to my past. There was a time when these foods were a mainstay in my ancestors' daily life. Today, they are reserved for special occasions; actually A special occasion, Christmas dinner. I wish my grandparents were still around to share this feast with us. Since they can't be, at Christmas I bring not only the memory of Bushia and Grandma Pearl in the kitchen with me, I bring their pictures. On my kitchen counter are photographs of my grandmothers as young women, taken at a time in their lives when they would have been busy preparing Christmas dinners. I rather think it would make them happy to know I still feel a strong ancestral tug. I also have pics of my mom and daughter there too, even though they spend the day helping me with Christmas dinner. But it pleases me to see the 5 of us together, knowing full well, that if not in body, certainly in spirit, we're sharing in the festivities of Christmas day, and that although my connection to my ancestry may be tenuous, it's still alive!

Christmas is a wonderful day to connect with our past. Do you observe any traditions on Christmas that you consider a link with your ancestry? Please share!

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When we think of the past, it leaves us unforgettable memories that helped shape our personalities. - Flemings Ultimate Garage

You are a very talented writer! I had no idea. I'm very proud. Just came across your blog. I don,t remember Martha. Are you sure she wasn't like the image of the witch on your closet door? ...I do know what you mean about mutts though, I'm glad you were PC enough to use such a nice term!!!

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I really liked this post. Can I copy it to my site?
Thank you in advance.

Sincerely, Your Reader.

Well, I'm a mutt, but we celebrate my Danish ancestory. For Christmas, we go to a Danish Lodge where we participate in the Santa Lucia pageant and the Jul Nisse visit. (Nisse=elf). Christmas eve, we put out rice pudding for the Nisse and then in March we celebrate Festelavns, Danish mardi gras! So much fun!

Thanks for all the comments this week!

Sarah...hope everyone has recovered and that you and DH dodge the bullet and don't get sick at all. Can happen!

Cathy...I'm wondering if you make any of the Polish foods for Christmas?

Michelle...Do you think we should start dieting now as a preemptive measure? Hehe.

M.B. We are soooo going to miss you this Christmas. Hopefully, we can all share in the feast next Christmas!

What a wonderful idea of placing pictures in the kitchen of Bushia and Grandma Verner as you, Missy, and Nana (mom V) prepare the family Christmas polish meal. I love those foods! Love you....your Irish/Scottish sister in-law :)

From one Pole to another, thanks for the trip down memory lane. I forgot all those great foods from my Grandma's kitchen.

Sarah, hope everyone feels better soon and that you avoid the flu.

Yummm... the talk of all that polish food is making me hungry. I couldn't eat it all the time but boy is it a yummy treat for Christmas!

Yuck! Up all night with all 3 kiddos with the flu. Hoping that if DH and I have to get it we'll do it soon. Then maybe we'll all be healthy for Christmas!

Question. Do your kids mind being called mutts? Hehe.

I love putting your grandma pics in the kitchen with you. My mom and DHs mom still do Christmas dinners but we do do some holiday baking and it would be cool to explain to the kids why I'm putting pictures of my great grandmas and grandmas in the kitchen with me.

Of course at Christmas my mom does some Italian cooking, but the thing I love is all this beautiful Italian linens that have been handed down. The laces are incredible. I think of my great great grandmothers using them in Italy. I'm glad everyone took such good care of them.

Hope everyone has a great week and stays healthy!