Winter Blogfest: Judy Ann Davis

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This post is part of Long and Short’s Review Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win an Amazon gifted copy of “Under Starry Skies.”..

A Polish-American Christmas

For people of Polish ancestry, Christmas Eve is a special night. It is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them. It’s call Wigilia (vee-GELL-yah) which means, “vigil,” or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus.

As dusk approaches, the mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers called oplatki (Oh-PWAHT-kee) on a fine china or silver plate. In modern times, straw and evergreens are assembled on a serving platter and covered with a white napkin. The oplatki is then placed on the napkin.

An extra place is set of any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed. (The extra place is also set in hopes that Christ will dine with the family.)

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the “breaking of the oplatki.”

The eldest family member takes the wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatki with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection. In America, Polish families often enclose oplatki in their Christmas cards.

In some regions of Poland, at the end of the supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman who is very often the parish priest in disguise, accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Typical food dishes on Christmas Eve include borscht, mushroom dishes, herring, white fish, meatless cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, pierogis, poppy seed rolls, spice cake, fruit, chocolates, tangerines, and cognac, liqueurs, and vodka made into a variety of drinks.

Hired as the town’s school teacher, Maria O’Donnell and her sister Abigail arrive in the Colorado Territory in 1875, only to find the uncle they were to stay with has been murdered.

Rancher Tye Ashmore is content with life until he meets quiet and beautiful Maria. He falls in love at first sight, but her reluctance to jeopardize her teaching position by accepting his marriage proposal only makes him more determined to make her part of his life.

When their lives are threatened by gunshots and a gunnysack of dangerous wildlife, Tye believes he is the target of an unknown enemy. Not until Maria receives written threats urging her to leave does she realize she might be the target instead of the handsome rancher.

With the help of Tye, Abigail, and a wily Indian called Two Bears, Maria works to uncover her uncle’s killer and put aside her fears. But will she discover happiness and true love under Colorado’s starry skies?

About the Author: Judy Ann Davis began her career in writing as a copy and continuity writer for radio and television in Scranton, PA. She holds a degree in Journalism and Communications and has written for industry and education throughout her career.

Over a dozen of her short stories have appeared in various literary and small magazines, and anthologies, and have received numerous awards. She has written three novels and one novella to date.

When Judy Ann is not behind a computer, you can find her looking for anything humorous to make her laugh or swinging a golf club where the chuckles are few.

She is a member of Pennwriters, Inc. and Romance Writers of America, and lives in Central PA.

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this. Many years ago we adopted a little girl from Poland. I shall share this with her.

    • Thank you for stopping by and please do share my post with her. I’m a fan of discovering all the many traditions our ancestors brought to the U.S. Mine, of course, were Polish. Have a great New Year!

  2. I enjoyed reading this.

  3. I enjoyed reading your post, it was very interesting, always enjoy hearing about traditions.

  4. Thank you for sharing these Polish traditions and foods which was so new and interesting to me. The food sounds delicious.

  5. I love how complex this is — traditions are incredible. Thank you!

    • Polish foods are really delicious, but I don’t know about how the calorie count stacks up! I love the mushroom dishes, although they are not a favorite of many people. Thanks for stopping by….and Happy New Year!

  6. Sounds interesting. I’m the descendant of first generation Polish immigrants to Chicago but because of a divorce when I was 3, and remarriage into a North Jersey Italian family, I have zero familiarity with my Polish ancestry 🙁

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