Christmas is fast approaching and it’s a special time in a family’s life. Our tight knit pack savours all preparations and traditions we carry with us from childhood or new traditions we started ourselves here in the UK.
It’s the season to give time and attention to each other, spend time crafting home decorations, putting up the Christmas tree – our case is hopeless as children insist on having a tree once we changed the calendar to December.
We are a mix of traditions and cultures: Polish, Trinidadian and British. We pick and choose the sweetest ones and make it ours. But the most important thing is that Christmas is about the excitement of having a couple of days together that are going to be slow and that we enjoy. Exploring presents amongst a sea of wrapping paper, lots of sofa hugs, indulging in the homemade treats we cooked together, taking a walk or simply snuggling under blankets to watch sun setting across the valley.
In early December, Big Son starts to pester me to make a list of food we’re going to cook for our big dinner on Christmas Eve – Wigilia. It’s a traditionally Polish night with nine, eleven, twelve or thirteen dishes for good luck. We’ve simplified it over the years, mastering the art of balance, to not overindulge our bodies with pierogis, mushroom soup or millets. In Poland just before the dinner, we traditionally share a blessed wafer bread and Christmas wishes. That’s the Polish part.
We start the dinner with British crackers and hats as we continue feasting on Polish delicacies of Wigilia. Pierogi is definitely the hit and the children every year are taking on a bigger part in preparing them with me. The fun, little spats, all the fuss of the day or two before Christmas.
The Trini part on Christmas Eve is the music, Parang, and the black cake which we order from a Tobago friend.
In my childhood in Poland, we used to get presents right after the Wigilia dinner. Here, our children wait for Santa to drop gifts at night, so on Christmas Day morning we can have the best kind of mess in our living room – full of wrapping paper, toy boxes, surprises, excitement and laughter.
The brunch on Christmas Day is the Trini style: ham with piccalilli and homemade hops rolls and leftovers from Wigilia, rounded up with the rich black cake.
But the most important thing is that we spend that time together. Christmas is about giving each other love, time, attention and care. We love to catch up with the family, friends far away, watch the children playing with new toys, enjoy presents that were chosen thoughtfully with love or stretch the legs on a brisk walk.
It is quite tranquil and calm in England that day, while people are tucking in the Christmas Day lunch amongst their dear ones. I find it very special and soothing to have the paths, streets or parks to yourself. The true Christmas aura, even if we do not have snow here.
Merry Christmas and Wesolych Swiat!