Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve traditions

I am Polish, and grew up in a very traditional Polish Catholic family, including my Grandmother, who lived across the street from us.  Gram was set on teaching the grandkids about our heritage, and we had several traditional holidays, but the biggest celebration was, by far, Christmas Eve.  It is a tradition we carry on to this day, and probably always will.

The traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal is called Wigilia.  We have a delicious menu of fish, never any meat, only fried fish and shrimp, pierogi, saurkraut with peas and mushrooms, buckwheat groats, macaroni and cheese (homemade), potato salad, pickled herring, stewed prunes, and various delicious desserts.

Before dinner can start, we break holy bread, which is called oplatek.

It is a wafer, much like communion bread, that has been blessed.  Each person takes a piece, and goes around to every other person wishing them 3 wishes, as they break off a piece of the person's bread and eat it.  Usually the wishes are for good luck, good health, and prosperity in the new year.

After that we take a small toast of home made Polish wine, say grace, and then, we dig in!

This year, we did dinner at my parents' home, as we always do.  It is a neat continuation of the original Wigilia tradition, as my parents now live in the house my grandmother lived in.  They have done a wonderful job of redecorating and making the house their home, but I can not help but get nostalgic for Gram on Christmas Eve.  She passed away several years ago, in her nineties, and I know she looks down on us and smiles at the fact that we continue the tradition.

Since last year, my sister and brother in law have built a beautiful new home on the property on which we all grew up, so this year, we went over to their house to exchange gifts.  My sister had the house decorated so cute for the holidays!

We all get gifts for the kids, but the adults do a gift exchange so we all just have one person to buy for.   We opened gifts in the basement/Steeler room, which had its own Christmas tree, all Steelers themed.

This year, I got my brother in law, and got him an awesome Steelers collage.

 Hubby had my dad, and got him a shirt and some Pens window decals.

My brother had me, and he got me a book, a cookbook, and an adorable dachshund calendar.

Mom had Hubby, and she got him lounge pants, a book, and Season 5 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The kids got tons of gifts, and had a blast opening them all!

My mother, brother and sister all also have December birthdays, so they usually have birthday gifts to open as well.

All in all it was a wonderful day.  I am incredibly blessed.  I have a wonderful Hubby, and an awesome family.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!