Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Multi-culti Christmas

We had a tradtional Christmas dinner on Sunday: salmon, Greek-style fish, and beet soup. Traditional Polish that is. We started by taking flat wafers (something like Communion wafers) exchanging pieces of them to eat and kisses. We had fewer than the traditional number of dishes, since it was just the three of us, but nonetheless it was very special since it's the baby's first Christmas.

Afterwards we went for a drive around town to check out the Christmas lights and fortuitiously found a U-shaped street where every single household on the street had cooperated in creating a festival of lights. My wife snapped lots of pictures and said this is one custom she'd love to bring back to Poland.

In Poland, Christmas dinner is held on Christmas Eve, "Wigilia", and consists of beet-root soup, "barst", and fish dishes in an odd number. (I think the numbers, 7,9, or 11 may once have had something to do with your social class.) Presents are opened after dinner.

Today is Christmas day, and now we'll do it American-style at our friends' house.

You know, I don't think I'd enjoyed Christmas for a long time before I moved to Poland and lived with a family in a small town for a couple of years. It was 1991 and I'd found myself a job teaching in a new private high school, which agreed to find me a place to stay. So I wound up boarding with a family: grandmother, mother and daughter. Only the daughter spoke any English at all and the grandmother soon lived to cook for me. So I started to pick up the language fairly soon - the way the cat learned to swim.

Christmas was a really nice no-stress occassion compared to American Christmas. Since the whole country had been so poor during the communist interregnum, gifts were likely to be something thoughtful like a wrapped-up can of my favorite beer. Christmas day itself is very relaxed with an early supper of leftovers and cold cuts.

I remember in an Anthropology class once, when the discussion turned to the festivals of various cultures, including ours, I said "Quick! Everybody who hates Christmas raise your hand." I think fully half the people in class' hands shot up.

I really hate to sound trite, especially since I'm a stauch pro-capitalist pig, but I think it's been, you know, that word - commercialized.

I mean, it's really gone too far when an occassion for shopping can stress women out.

(That's a joke honey! Really! I swear to God. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!)

I wonder, how many of us can say our favorite Christmas was at a time when we were broke? Seems like I've heard a lot of stories about that. We're facing an uncertain future, but we've got choices, we've got opportunities and we've got each other.

The twelfth day of Christmas, January 6, is Three Kings Day, which Poles and Hispanics celebrate, and perhaps my wife will want to chalk, "K + M + B" on the door.

Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you're all as lucky as I am.


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