I grew up with a mother of Polish descent, so there were always lots of bad ethnic jokes and the perfect excuse for every screw-up (“My Polish is showing.”) in our household. But we also had some wonderful traditions—like at Christmas. For us, Christmas Eve was the most important holiday of the year. In my story, “The Gift of the Magic,” featured in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe and Magic, I managed to cover a lot of the holiday traditions so important to my mother’s ancestral heritage. There were a lot, though, I didn’t get to include.
So, come back the house on Long Island in the 1970s where I grew up, and share some traditional Polish Yuletide cheer. Don’t worry that you weren’t invited: according to Polish custom, surprise guests are considered good luck for Christmas. We’ll have to enter through the back door, though, because the dining room table has taken over the living room to accommodate all the guests, making opening the front door impossible. The pink-and-silver artificial tree is in one corner—decorated—but no presents sit beneath it yet. Dad’s already got the television set to Channel 11’s “Yule Log.” It’s a televised presentation of the fireplace at Gracie Mansion in New York City with Christmas carols playing in the background for about four straight hours. The kids, unfamiliar with the concept of recorded video, can’t figure out why no one ever pops into the picture to stir the fire or toss another log into the eternal blaze.
The table is already set with one extra place setting. This represents the memory of the loved ones lost throughout the past years. Before the meal is served, the oldest member of the family, in our case, my dad, brings out the “oplatek.” This is a large, square, white Communion wafer. He will break off a piece and pass the wafer to my mother, who will break off a piece and pass the wafer to the oldest child, who will break off a piece, and so forth down the line, until all family members and guests have received a piece. Even pets can share in the oplatek, but theirs should be a colored version (usually pink or green). Once we all have our oplatek, my dad will remind us of what we have had to be thankful for over the last year and wish us good health and happiness in the days ahead. After the “amen,” we all eat our oplatek and the true feast can then begin. There will be a lot of fish dishes, pierogis, and several vegetable side dishes (and because we tend to cheat a little, we’ll also have both fresh and smoked homemade kielbasa with stone ground mustard).
After dinner, we’ll sing carols while we clean up until the kids rush off to bed so Santa doesn’t catch them awake when he shows up. The adults will then have coffee and drinks as they prepare the house for Christmas morning by bringing out the presents and stockings and placing them under the tree. Some will opt for midnight mass. After midnight has come and gone, the adults have free rein to open their stockings if they’d like. God knows, in the morning, among the melee with the kids, there’ll be no quiet moments! What’s most important is the love of family and the happiness at being together.
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me one of the traditions you grew up with. Post your traditions in the comments, and two winners(picked by rafflecopter!) will each get a copy of Mistletoe and Magic to enjoy this holiday season!
The blurb for Mistletoe and Magic:
Insanity Claus by Carolyn Hughey
A widow of two years, Mallory Gardner is struggling to keep her business alive and still function in her dysfunctional family. Having two daughters, with one who blames Mallory for her father’s death, is enough to test anyone’s sanity. But when Arden J. Miller waltzes into town, he has other ideas—like capturing Mallory’s heart even though love is the last thing on her mind.
Can two irresistible forces deal with immovable objects, or will the effects of the holiday spirit help resolve issues previously thought to be unsolvable?
The Gift of the Magic by Gina Ardito
To fulfill her mother’s dying request, Polina Kominski must spend the Christmas holiday in Krakow, Poland and discover the magic of the city. If only to finally gain control of her life, she’ll complete the list of tasks Mom left, but she has no intention of believing in legends and superstitions. Until she runs into Rhys Linsey on a Krakow street. But can the magic of the holiday and the love of this special man overcome her painful past?
For true love should never tie a heart down. True love allows two people the freedom to fly together!
About Gina: Gina Ardito is the author of eighteen romance novels, a freelance editor, and a killer of houseplants. You can find out more about her at her website: www.ginaardito.com, follow her on Twitter @GinaArdito and like her page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GinaArditoAuthor
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