Happy Holidays Gorgeous! Hope you're having a fabulous holiday season!
Please allow me to share a Christmas story... I hope to make you smile, and feel something special in telling it.
Poland is a country rich with tradition, and Christmas Eve is one of the most sacred days of the year. Our celebration gathered around a special supper. The table is set with an extra plate to welcome unexpected guests, including strangers, that might show-up at the door. In the biblical story, Mary & Joseph were turned away by villagers from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and from this we learn the importance of sharing with others, especially those without family nor friends to share the eve.
Underneath dinner plates you'll discover hay & cash symbolizing the nativity of Jesus, and prosperity for the upcoming year. There are twelve dinner courses representing the twelve apostles, and twelve months of good fortune. Traditionally, supper begins when the first star appears in the night sky. With this we remember the Three Kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to the birthplace of Jesus. Anxiously awaiting the first star we open a window, despite the frigid winter breeze, and hunt with our eyes.
To honor the animals of the manger where Mary & Joseph found refuge, the supper is pescatarian. The most popular fish for this supper throughout Poland is carp. And OMG our bathtub became a carp aquarium for a few days! Yep. My parents would bring home live carp, put them in the bathtub, and the fish swam laps in this porcelain aquarium. One time I wanted to pet the cute bathtub fish, but being quite short I leaned and leaned aaand SLIP into the bathtub of carp I went! You can imagine how "exciting" that was. To this day I firmly believe in the separation of carp & bathtub ;) But that was nothing a hot chocolate & warm bed couldn't fix.
Before sitting for supper we say a prayer and share oplatek while exchanging wishes of health, peace, and prosperity. Oplatek (pronounced: oh-pwat-kee) is a thin wafer made of flour & water, similar in taste to Communion bread.
There is a Christmas Eve myth that I enjoyed which went like this... "any animal which ate oplatek on the eve of Christmas would speak with human voices at midnight, but only those whom are pure of spirit will hear them". As a little girl I wished to stay up long enough to witness this… Maybe I should've dropped bits of oplatek in the bathtub.
The moment all children have been awaiting finally comes… Christmas gifts! You sit around the tree, open gifts, and sing carols.
This is how I remember Christmas Eve, fulfilling but not without humility, because we didn’t always have twelve main courses. Instead we might include fruit, oplatek, or walnuts in-place of a traditional course. Our Christmas tree never reached the ceiling of our small quaint home, there weren't giant stacks of gifts nestled beneath it's branches. Yet our Christmas was flowing with excitement, fulfillment, warmth & comfort.
My heart was always full, and I'm ever grateful for the memories. For all of you I wish the same & more...
Love, joy and peace.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
A supper was set, family gathered about,
The tree was decorated just two days ago,
It's chilly outside, maybe too cold to snow,
A special plate on the table, for guests who might show,
A lesson of kindness, our parents did sow,
12 dishes, 12 disciples, 12 months of good luck,
To symbolize the nativity some coins & some brush,
Let's open the window, feel a breeze of cold air,
Anxious to see the first star, we look & we stare,
Oplatek is a wafer we break & we share,
Exchange wishes of health, and time for a prayer,
Next came the moment all children like most,
Excitedly opening gifts with family so close.