Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas traditions


The 1st of December has arrived and with it the first day of our blogging community's Advent Calendar, Kailana and Marg's idea. I'm very happy to be one of the first bloggers to start this cool event. I can't wait to read everybody's entries over this month!

Firstly, I LOVE December. I love Christmas too - I'm not actually Christian so I'm talking about the secular holiday that Christmas has become to many. I love the carols, the decorations, the lights, the fake santas. The cheesier the better. December also happens to be my birthday month and I'm like a kid with birthdays too, so you can imagine...

As some of you know, I live in Belgium and am Polish. I always spend Christmas with my family in Poland. My Mom is as Christmas-crazy as me - in fact, her fake santas are already up! My family, especially my Mom, tends to go overboard with buying presents too. I get that from her. That and the shopping bug, which fits in nicely with the present-buying.

We celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December, Christmas Eve. We sit down to dinner at around 4 or 5 - as soon as it gets dark, pretty much. The traditional Polish Christmas table has 12 dishes, but we're not a big family so we don't really stick to that. We definitely always have barszcz (which is a soup made of red beets), pierogi (dumplings with mushrooms and cabbage) and lots of fish.

We open our presents in stages - some during dinner, some after, some later in the evening when all the guests have gone home. Lately, since my boyfriend Joe is Irish, we also save some for Christmas Day.

Joe and I are pagan and we also pay special attention to Yule. We always do something to mark the day, but it can't possibly be as elaborate as Christmas. :-)

I'm so glad I got to write this today - I haven't been feeling Christmassy this year and now I do. It's my favorite time of the year - family, warmth, hope. I love spending time with my Mom and Dad and the rest of my family and I love adding new traditions each year. I hope that in the future I will be able to keep up some of the older ones too.

Have a great first day of December everyone!

41 comments:

Nymeth said...

12 dishes, wow! It's the same in Portugal - Christmas Eve is a much bigger deal than Christmas day itself. And we also eat fish - generally codfish, though in some parts of the country it's octopus. Fortunately not here. I refuse to eat anything with tentacles :P

Thank you for this post, Joanna. I loved learning about Polish Christmas traditions. And I think it's awesome that you also celebrate Yule :)

Marg said...

What an interesting mix of celebration you get to have! Thanks so much for starting off our blog tour!

joanna said...

Nymeth - My parents lived in Lisbon for a while, so I spent a few Christmases there - it's not the same for me if it's not cold though. :-) I did try Portuguese cod, which was good, but I don't eat seafood so many restaurants were out from the start! I also remember some sweet cakes with a custard-type filling?

Marg - thanks for stopping by! And I'm so excited that the blog tour has started, so much fun ahead! :-)

Kailana said...

This was an interesting start to the tour! I enjoy learning about different traditions through posts! I couldn't imagine 12 dishes, though, that's a lot of food! Thanks for joining in!

Nymeth said...

Joanna, those are Pasteis de Belém - very typical in Lisbon, though not necessarily Christmas related. I was born in Lisbon but I live far up north now, and it does get quite a bit cold here! Though not nearly as cold as in some other parts of Europe, of course. Not much of a chance of a White Christmas for me. But once it snowed on my birthday, the week after Christmas. I was very happy :D

Chris said...

My mother in law is Polish so our Christmas Eve is a big deal here too.

bigSIS said...

I had heard about the 12 dishes before (from Veggie Tales, LOL) and thought that was really neat. It is interesting to hear how you celebrate the season. We are the opposite, in that being Christian, our family actually downplays the secular side of the holiday...no trees, santas. But I love lights so I have plenty of those around the house. Hope you have a great Christmas Season!

Bogsider said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. Being a non-practising Protestant I can definitely follow some of your thought about Yule and I am looking forward to post myself tomorrow, December 2. Also, in Danish, Christmas is JUL, which is pronounced very much like YULE, I guess we got it from there, but that is no surprise, as our Danish Christmas is definitely a mix between pagan rituals and Christianity. Have a great YULE-month in Poland (which is not that far from Denmark).

Louise

Bogsider said...

PS. I love your blog-design and am tempted to steal it ;o)

joanna said...

Kailana - that IS a lot of food... my Mom has started counting things like bread and butter. :-)

Nymeth - ah yes, that's what they're called... I wasn't sure if they were Christmas-related or not. The only place up north that I've been to is Sintra and I think the surrounding area was my favorite of what I've seen of Portugal. Where you live must be absolutely lovely! How do you find English books there though?? ;-) And a white christmas has become a thing of the past even in Poland, I so wish snow would make an appearance this year!

joanna said...

Chris - Yep, Polish traditions are sure creeping into others around the world! :-)

bigSIS - I think that's so great, to celebrate a holiday you believe in and avoid all the consumer stuff. There aren't many people like that anymore and I always admire them, since I'm the worst consumer ever. ;-)

Bogsider - I've actually participated in some Danish Christmas celebrations and they're very cool. I guess all our traditions have something pagan in them, since that's what our past is. We had to build on something! And wow, what a nice thing to say, thanks! It's a standard blogger one, but I recently added a third column - if you search via google you'll find the instructions for how to do that.

Beth F said...

Food is always a good thing! This is my first time at your blog. I'll be looking around. I love Belgium! See my header photo and you'll know where I was just a few months ago!

joanna said...

Hi Beth - thanks for stopping by! I'll be off to browse around your blog now! ;-)

Julia Smith said...

You get to burst the champagne bottle and launch the Advent Blog Tour. My family comes from a French background and we really look forward to Christmas Eve as The Big Event. My aunt is the hostess for that, and we have a lobster newburg dish that I wait for all year long! I'd love to try your family's feast - I love perogies, too.

raidergirl3 said...

thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions. It was very interesting and a nice way to see how different aspects and religions can blend together nicely. It's all about family and love no matter what specific traditions people have.

Vickie said...

Oh My Goodness, that is a lot of dishes. Now, I know why we had a big meal on Christmas Eve. My Mom is Polish, but never explained the big meal on that day.

We still have a big meal, but I think it is to fit Christmas on both days. For I now have in-laws. On their table they put sardines, eww.

Thanks for sharing:)

Debbie said...

Love your traditions! All of them. I like the diversity.

Alabama Book Worm said...

What a lovely post to start off our season of celebration!

Strumpet said...

Thanks for sharing!! I'm glad this got you in the Christmas spirit!

grayskyeyes said...

Your Christmas celebration sounds great. I love all the special Christmas foods my family makes around this time of year.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

Callista said...

I'm pagan too so Happy Yule. We also celebrate the secular Christmas. Thanks for sharing your Polish Christmas customs.

Iliana said...

It's so neat to read everyone's traditions around the holidays. We celebrate on Christmas eve as well and open presents then.

Happy December 1!

Morgan the (Almost) Muse said...

That sounds great! I cannot imagine having a twelve course meal. Wow!

Susan said...

My mother's family is Polish (my grandfather was born there), but when they came over, he didn't pass on any of the traditions or language to my mother. I've always been sad about that, and one day I will try making the 12 course meal, which I have read about! I'm teaching myself Polish culture as I can find it :-) I'm pagan too - gee, there are a lot of us, aren't there? and with my eldest being raised by his dad as Catholic (my old religion), I long ago decided to celebrate both! It got too confusing for him, and I think religion should be a choice. so I get to open a present for me on the Solstice, and then more with the family on the 25th! :-) Lovely post Joanna, and I really like your blog. I'll definitely be coming by much more often.
PS funny enough, Christmas Eve has always been a time to wait - we never opened any presents then! I love reading about yours and Nymeth's traditions. Thank you for sharing with us, and Happy Yule to you!

Melissa said...

Haha, 12 dishes, that sounds like something our family would be up for. Thanks for sharing how you spend Christmas.

Krissi said...

How cool is it to have so many reasons, traditions and cultures to celebrate during the holidays. I have three children with birthday's the week of Christmas. I know how much fun it can be to have a Christmas Birthday.

Memory said...

We have a large Polish and Ukrainian community here so I eat pierogi pretty frequently, but I'd never heard of having them stuffed with mushrooms and cabbage. Ours are usually just potatoes; some cooks also add cheese, onions or bacon. I guess that just goes to show how much foods change when you transplant them!

Julia said...

wow 12 dishes, that too many!

I love to learn about people tradition and where they came from. Thanks for sharing your tradition and about your family. I love Christmas and it my favorite time of the year.

joanna said...

Julia - hope you enjoy your Christmas Eve, it sounds great!

raidergirl3 - I couldn't agree more.

Vickie - I don't know where the tradition comes from, I should find out. Sardines?? Yuck!

Debbie - thanks! Yes, we do try to fit a lot in... :-)

Alabama Book Worm - thanks! :-)

Marg said...

Joanna, I just wanted to check to see if you received the email that I sent re claiming your prize?

joanna said...

Strumpet - it sure did!

Kim - special foods are great! I hate how some special foods are available all year round now. I'm glad that there are still some things that I only have at certain times of the year, it makes them special.

Callista - Happy Yule to you too!

Iliana - it sure is! I love the internet for allowing us to share these sorts of things!

Morgan - it's 12 dishes, so at least they come in batches so you can pick at them rather than actually have 12 courses. Make it way easier! ;-)

joanna said...

Susan - Happy Yule! :-) It's nice to hear that you're looking for info on Polish traditions. Let me know if you have any questions! :-)

Melissa - we're so into food, it's great!

Krissi - ha ha. My Mom's birthday is on Christmas Eve too and she always complained that she only got one big present. I always make sure to get her more.

Memory - I love the potato and cheese ones too, I think my Mom is making those this year as well. ;-)

Julia - Mine too! ;-) Happy holidays!

joanna said...

Hi Marg - yes, I saw it this morning and will answer right now! Sorry!

Alison said...

It's nice to read how people in other countries and cultures celebrate. Thanks for sharing.

joanna said...

Hi Alison, yes, that's one of the things that's so cool about this blog tour!

Lisa said...

12 dishes!

We open ONE gift on Christmas Eve, then the rest in a flurry of paper on Christmas morning.

Omah's Helping Hands said...

How very interesting! I love hearing about how different countries celebrate Christmas or what ever it may be for some.
Twelve dishes, that is cool. So much to choose from. We were fortunate enought to experience Germany at Christmas time. We absolutely loved it!
Thanks for sharing and getting us started.

Kim said...

I so enjoyed reading about your Polish Christmas! Such interesting traditions. My birthday is this month too--on the 18th. Happy Birthday to you!
*Smiles*
Kim

joanna said...

Lisa - what restraint, ONE gift on Christmas Eve! ;-)

Omah's Helping Hands - Germany is indeed beautiful at Christmas time. I'm going there next weekend to do some of the Christmas markets, can't wait!

Kim - Happy Birthday! :-) Mine's on the 13th. I love having my birthday in December!

splummer said...

Hi!
I am late getting around to everyone. Loved your story of your family get together for Christmas. The food sounds wonderful and Yummy! Thanks for sharing!

Sherrie

3M said...

We celebrate on Christmas Eve as well, usually having potato soup.

Merry Christmas!