Saving our Christmas Traditions

The Christmas season is approaching, and it is a vital time of celebration for my Polish family. Celebrating holidays and special events gave my ancestors an overall rhythm to their lives during the year, and most immigrants tried to continue this in their new homes. So Christmas was a special time for them, setting the tone for the start of the year.

It is a magical season and an excellent time for most families to get together. The season helps people forget the cold dark realities of winter. Many seem to transport their minds to a better place by enjoying the festive celebrations surrounding Christmas activities. It can also be an exciting time to add to Family History research. Memories of these traditions and celebrations can be vital to your family history.

Have you been saving memories of your Christmas gatherings? Now is a great time to start if you haven’t been writing them down and capturing them in photos. Remember, photos give us a visual perception, and words can highlight the details. So capture them now while your memories are still sharp. The details help bring your ancestors back to life.

As a start, here are some questions I ask: Did your grandparents describe their Christmas celebrations in Poland? Did your family gather on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? What dishes did they serve? What was the filling in your pierogi? Did you have a cucumber salad? What was the soup – mushroom or chicken? How did they prepare the potatoes? Was ham on your grandmother’s table, or did she serve the more traditional fish recipe? What were the desserts?

Did someone save the recipes? Are they still using them today?

I loved all the dishes my grandma served, but the sauerkraut pierogi and poppy seed cake were my favorites. Grandma’s pierogis were perfect. They were still hot when they got to the table, and I always started eating them first after daubing them with sour cream. All of the other food was delicious, but I was still careful to leave room for the poppy seed cake. Grandma’s cake was moist, sweet, and the perfect end to the feast.

Your Christmas memories are a magical portion of your family history. So keep honoring your Polish ancestors by celebrating their Christmas traditions, and remember to enjoy the spirit of Christmas every day. Their lives are major building blocks for our roots in America.

Capture them and share the pages and photos from past Christmas days with your brothers, sisters, and cousins, and more stories will flow. Save your memories in a written family history so your family can know their ancestors better. Those words will be an extraordinary gift to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren when they read your family history.

Wesołych Świąt

Merry Christmas


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