Relationship: Child of im/migrant

Polish culture, whether Jewish or Catholic, is largely shaped by religious values. My mother raised me Catholic, which meant that I cashed in on my life karma early and got to celebrate the commercialized Christmas experience: chocolate Santa Claus molds, stockings filled with cheap trinkets and candy canes, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and everything in between. There are, however, a couple things that Polish people celebrate differently. Lucky for me, Polish kids get to open their presents a day earlier since we celebrate Christmas Eve instead of Day. The precursor to all the excitement of unwrapping gifts is a huge family feast, Wigilia, filled with pierogi, borscht, mushrooms, cabbage, and fish. One important Polish Catholic tradition that my family upholds is the breaking of opłatek.

Opłatek is a flavorless sheet cracker, similar to communion at church, that symbolizes Jesus Christ’s body. Family members each hold their own opłatek and take turns breaking off pieces of others’ crackers while wishing each other good fortunes for the coming year. Someone can wish their loved one health, happiness, money, or even to break their habit of smoking cigarettes. As a child, I was always impatient to eat the food that my mother had prepared and embarrassed of coming up with unique wishes for everyone. Now, however, opłatek is a comforting memory, and every Wigilia reminds me of the Polish heritage that my mother persistently nags me to embrace.

Place(s): Polish
Year: 1992

– Julieta

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant