Happy Holidays!

23 12 2009

Some of my warmest memories growing up in Poland involved the legendary group Czerwone Gitary.  Summer camps, school dances, the first kiss – the Polish version of the Beatles were there to enhance the experience.

And here they are again, singing a beautiful Christmas carol “There is such a day…”

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!


The first Thanksgiving

16 12 2009

No, not the one with Indians and Pilgrims on Plymouth Plantation in 1621, but our first Thanksgiving dinner right here in Gdynia, November 26th, 2009.

To be honest, I did not plan on celebrating this most American of holidays, because I believe that “when in Rome…” and the Poles already have quite a few occasions to party, anyway.  But as it tuned out (right after one especially “spirited” dinner en familia), I seem to have offered to host a Thanksgiving feast at our place!

Don’t get me wrong – I love entertaining.  But being unfamiliar with Polish terms for most Thanksgiving ingredients (yams? pumpkins? cranberries?) and given the size of my convection oven, I knew it would be a challenge.  And indeed it was. We could not find an indyk (turkey) small enough to fit into the oven unless I sat on it to squash it (an idea that elicited a warning from my sister in Florida:  make sure you don’t sit on a wish bone!).  The locally grown borówki (cranberries) were bitter and hard and did not want to pop during cooking.  And the local rynek (farmer’s market) was all out of pataty (yams).

But this is where my Poles-can-do attitude came into play –  I built a turkey!  Yes, you read correctly; I purchased a large turkey breast, a couple of thighs and wings,  marinated it all overnight and roasted it in a bag.  The results were f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c and the family loved it as well as the rest of the (improvised and polish-fied) dishes.

And isn’t that really what’s it all about?  The family?

Święto Niepodległości

22 11 2009

To an American, Independence Day is synonymous with parades, backyard barbecues and late night fireworks.

Polish Independence Day is celebrated  on November 11th, so we can safely rule out the backyard barbecue.  And due to the financial crises and serious budget cuts,  the city of Gdynia eliminated the fireworks part.  So we are left with a parade.

Now, I know that this particular holiday was mainstreamed only in 1989.  And that the Poles have a deep aversion to parades, stemming from  many years of compulsory participation in the May 1st celebrations.  And that quite a number of Poles consider “patriotism” an unpopular concept  in the modern world.

Still,  the main route of the parade in Gdynia was lined with spectators (3 deep),  hours before the noon commencement.

And what have we seen?  One marching band, 2 pre-war Citroens and a bunch of youths representing their respective Lyceums.  The parade was over in 29 minutes.

Piłsudski would’ve been nonplussed.

All Saints Day

2 11 2009


November 1st in Poland was always a special day for me.  It meant visiting my babcia, buying a chrysanthemum plant, a few votive candles and making the annual trek to the Sopot cemetery.  We would visit my grandads site (both grandma’s husbands are buried in one grave – after all they have a love of one woman in common) and after some cleaning I was allowed to arrange the flowers and candles on top of the stone.  We would linger there, breathing in the scent of fallen leaves and votive candles, each of us lost in our memories of the 2 men:  for me it was the piggyback rides, trips to the candy store and pretty dresses at Easter.  For my grandma…well, I can only imagine.

A lot has changed in 40 years.  The Sopot cemetery has expanded tenfold.  The simple grave stones have been replaced by imposing monuments, the votive candles by expensive torches and the one-plant-per-grave no longer applies:  the cemetery is awash in colors and smells of all kinds of plants and flowers.

One thing has not chanIMG_1499ged – my grandma is still here.  Do you like how I arranged the flowers for you,  babciu?