Happy Holidays! Tis’ the season of sharing, coming together and contemplating the past year as we welcome the new year. Countless traditions embrace this season. Whether they have been shared by family or friends, traditions are unique and cherished by many.
Recently, I was invited to a Polish celebration, a Wigilia. Although this celebration is reserved for Christmas Eve, we did it early to accommodate travel. A “roping contest” ensued. Living out west that usually entails an animal, but this roping was done to close the Pierogi (filled dumplings).
Debby, our hostess, introduced us to her family tradition, which includes a wish for everyone individually. With nineteen in attendance, we did not follow the rules. Instead, Debby chose a wish for each of us, presenting it in a lovely origami box that she made with her mother. Each personalized message brought us all to tears. I heard one of the men say to Debby, “I’ve lived a long time and I have never experienced anything like I did tonight.” That was true for one and all.
With Polish blood running through my veins, I was surprised that I never heard of a Wigilia. Lor, my mom, explained that she followed the tradition in her youth, but her mother didn’t maintain it. What a shame! A Wigilia is a beautiful tradition.
For the winter solstice, I followed a Buddhist tradition: to write something that I wanted to release from 2018 as well as something I desired in 2019. I shared my thoughts with Beth and she with me. Then we burned them. Another new tradition that I fancy.
Today a Croation tradition of making Pogacha, a sweet bread, is at hand. I used to get a loaf in the mail. When I opened the package, I sat and just smelled it for the longest time. My childhood would come flooding back; the smell of Pogacha filling every nook and cranny of the house. My paternal grandmother would measure every ingredient. Lily would roll and punch the dough. She’d laugh after slapping our hands when we would pull a small chunk of raw dough from the mound she just kneaded and pop it into our mouths. Cinnamon & sugar, plain or cream cheese filling, it is something I still enjoy and remember with such love. Lor continued the tradition; she became a Croation through osmosis. It’s a long process to make such wonderful, traditional bread, but I’m willing to put forth the effort to bring Lily, Lor, and all of my ancestors to my doorstep.
From the Wigilia tradition, I will close with my wish. “I wish you a time of wonder as you honor your traditions, new and old. In the spirit of your ancestors, may you enjoy it all.” Be well… Nancy T