I grew up with my grandparents who are of Polish descent and we celebrated in an Eastern European style. Our Christmas is celebrated on Wigilia (Polish for Christmas Eve), and starts with a breaking of the wafers. After the wafers, we eat a large meatless dinner, consisting of wild mushroom soup, shrimp cocktail, pierogi, and fried fish. After dinner, the family gathers around the tree to open presents. Christmas Day is an understated affair with only stocking and presents from Santa and leftovers from the meal the day before. As I got older, I loved this celebration as I often got to celebrate Christmas twice by joining my friends’ Christmas celebration.
My husband’s family celebrated Christmas is a much more traditionally American manner. They attended Mass on Christmas Eve and then usually had a casual dinner of take home pizza. On Christmas morning, they opened all their presents. Then they had an early dinner of something like lamb or prime rib. Our first married Christmas, we lived in driving distance to his family. My Grammy sent me pierogi she made and the wafers. I made mushroom soup and fried fish. We had a dinner like my Wigilia but did not open any presents. Then Christmas morning we drove to his family’s house where we had a Christmas dinner like he was used to.
Our nuclear family Christmas tradition that we are working to establish for the boys tries to honor both of our family of origin, along with things we picked up along the way. I love Christmas so after Thanksgiving, our elf, Christopher, comes to play hide and seek with us .
Before December 1st, Christopher delivers advent calendars to help us count down to Christmas.
Some time in the 2nd week, we picked out a live tree. I love this tradition as my family always had fake trees, and my husband who grew up with a live Christmas tree insists on one. I am happy we adopted his tradition of a live tree.
On Christmas Eve, we break wafers and have a small supper. I always make fried fish and we either eat it with mushroom soup or pierogi. For a few years, I did a big Christmas Eve meal, but as we have another big meal the next day, we have scaled back. In addition, my Wigilia always had extended family with plenty of people to eat the big meal. It is usually just the 4 of us, so it makes sense to scale back.
We do not open presents on Christmas Eve like my family did, and I don’t mind one bit. I read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the boys and we sprinkle reindeer food and leave out snacks for Santa. After the boys go to bed, I prepare a Christmas morning casserole, usually something with eggs and sausage.
Christmas morning we relax and open our presents. We eat an early dinner of some type of meat; we have done lamb, beef, and ham. Our Christmas Day meal is a big affair with fancy sides that compliment the meat we have chosen for that year. We like to make sure we have enough leftovers for Boxing Day, which was as much as a holiday in England as Christmas itself. After 3 years in England, our Christmas also includes a mincemeat pie and crackers.
I am very much looking forward to our Polish, Irish, American, English Christmas this year!
Did you have to combine traditions when you got married? How do you celebrate Christmas?