Tuesday, December 12, 2006


What stayed with me after our study of Poland was complete was the symbolism and meaning behind their decorations, their songs, and even their meals. How fortunate we were to be invited to a dear friend's home for a traditional Polish Wigilia on December 24th, 1999. The name of the Christmas Eve feast comes from the latin word vigiliare, meaning to watch. Though once used for the evening before any feast, it has come to stand for the Christmas Eve meal... the "watch" or the wait, for the Christ-child to be born.

Everything served by my friend was made with love and attention to detail, from the Gefilte Fish to the various traditional components of this annual feast. We passed an Oplatek wafer around the table and broke pieces off, to celebrate our Unity, truly sharing the meal in a meaningful way. Traditionally, celebrants would have attended Midnight Mass, known as Pasterka, but small children and our own traditions precluded that conclusion to our first Wigilia.

The little dove on our Polish doll's arm does not symbolize "peace" as one might expect, but Contentment, according to Polish lore. An Old World tree might contain a heart for love, a fish for fertility, a Santa for the spirit of Christmas. A church ornament would represent religion, a pine cone warmth, and a house shelter. A flower is a symbol of beauty, a fruit basket means plenty, and a Teapot means hospitality. An angel Stands for the Eternal Life that awaits and a pickle, apparently, is thrown in for just for fun. Have you learned about the Pickle ornament? It is the last ornament placed on the tree - secretly. The child that finds the pickle wins a special gift, tucked away for just that purpose.

Through my friend's very special dinner and a nice video travel guide we purchased, Poland came to life for us that year. I find that I have a new feeling during the holidays since I've started to learn about different cultures and customs. There has always been a feeling of expectation... but now I quietly contemplate what I am awaiting. I do not want the season to be a chaos of consumerism. I want more than the giddy flurry of preparation; more than the excited flutter of expectation. I want to take joy in each and every moment of the watch... the vigilaire... the Waiting for Jesus Time.
photos by Aisling, 2006


Nan said...

I am so enjoying all the doll postings, and learning the different cultures and customs. Thank you so very much.

Aisling said...

Thank you for saying this! Sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading! :)