Monday, December 10
According to a lot of the Polish workers I pick up who work here in Barrow and the nearby Lakes, their will be a shortage of much needed Polish staff in the next few weeks. They tell me that Christmas is very important for them and that most will do their best to go home for at least a week or two. From what these folk tell me I can hardly blame them for preferring the traditional Polish Christmas, rather than the stress laden, greed driven, drunken, retail binge that we mockingly call Christmas.
My polish fares tell me that the Polish Christmas is much more about family and tradition rather than the trading of expensive presents. December 6th is the day when good children receive small presents, or twigs if they have been bad. Wigilia (Christmas Eve) is the most important day and is the day for sharing Oplatek" - a thin, white baked wafer with an embossed religious Christmas pattern. As each person shares pieces of the wafer with another person, they are supposed to forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year and to wish the other person all the happiness in the coming year. Then comes the twelve course (one for each apostle) feast, a spare place is set at the table for a stranger or an absent member of the family, who may come unannounced. It was also customary to invite the lonely for the supper, because on Christmas Eve no one should be left alone. Another custom that has survived till this day is putting a little hay on the table as a remembrance of Christ's birth in a manger.
Then it's off to midnight mass and carol singing, sounds nice doesn't it maybe we should all go to Poland next Christmas eh!