I´ve been postponing blog writing for a couple of weeks now. Thesis revisions, organizing and attending house parties, sangría preparing, cooking, eating loads of Polish food, and other Christmas-like obligations have been occupying most of my waking hours lately. Today anyhow marks the start of a fresh and exciting new year, and because I owe some of you a story about how Polish Christmases are spent, I finally got myself to writing it.
It all started about a month ago when I moved into a great new flat on Ulica Pomorska 49 (pronounced Oo-leet-sa Pomorska cher-yesh-she-ye-vench), and possibly my favorite Polish word, jeje… So, I decided to finally leave the dormitory life behind and make my Polish stay a bit more official by transforming my apartment into a real home and not a haven for Erasmus partyholics. I also signed a work contract until summer of 2012 and will be negotiating with the University of Wrocław, where I can hopefully continue teaching next semester. So, so far, so great…
Another reason why my Polish life became even more awesome is because of my new BFF. He’s got small green eyes, a warm smile, a huge and tender heart, and the most soulful taste in music ever. Plus, as an added value, he also cooks senegalese finger food, plays guitar, and can rap pretty well.
His name is Adam and he’s also my flat mate, together with his girlfriend, who’s in France and I still haven’t met. Adam and I clicked since the first second we sat down to talk, and although we’ve only known each other for a month or so, it seems like a lot longer. My Polish Christmas experience, therefore, was thanks to him and his great family: Mama Bogna, Papa Edward, and greatest sister in the world, who came from upstate NY to spend 6 weeks here, Ania.
Ania, Adam, and I spent Christmas with their mother and stepdad in a small city called Leszno, where they live. An almost two hour train ride from Wrocław later and we arrived to foggy, snow-less Leszno, where we’d spend the next couple of days in Bogna and Edward’s apartment. A perfectly decorated dinner table greeted us and would be the center of the celebrations during the next half a week or so.
Everyday Bogna would change the perfectly ironed white tablecloth, fine napkins, candles, wine glasses, and Christmas ornaments and begin the main mission of the day, which almost turned into a vicious cycle: cooking and eating, eating and cooking, cooking and eating more…
The first activity on the agenda (before eating and more eating) was decorating the tree, which Poles, unlike Puerto Ricans, usually do a couple of days before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve the cooking process began early. Although most of us were still in pj´s, I decided to dress up a bit and hit the kitchen to learn some new recipes. Ania and I helped Bogna make some salad and prepare pierogis (Polish dumplings) stuffed with cabbage (ever present in Polish cuisine).
First you make the dough, then you cut it in circles using a cookie cutter, stuff them one by one, and seal them using your hands (or Puerto Rican empanadilla style, using a fork). This is how they turned out…
Hours later, we all sat to eat twelve dishes (Polish tradition that holds relation with the 12 apostles and the last supper). For starters, we had beet root soup with another type of dumplings, and later on we tried different fish dishes, cabbage salads, and best of all… the desert: four types of cakes (poppy seed, cheesecake, walnut cake, and another one with biscuits and caramel)
Another common tradition that Poles practice during Christmas lunch took place shortly after. To prepare for it, someone from the family must get communion bread from church and before eating and after saying a prayer, each member of the family cuts a piece of the bread and gives a wish to each person in a circle until everyone has been wished and blessed upon.
We also heard many Christmas carols in Polish, English, and even Puerto Rican ones. Everyone received a decent amount of hugs and kisses , unexpected presents, and even engaged in salsa dancing! Thanks to Adam, Ania, Bogna and Edward for making this time so special in my home away from home!
Merry Christmas, Wesołych Świąt, Feliz Navidad, and a great start of 2012 for everyone!