What is your family heritage?
What traditions are in your history?
My paternal grandfather was Polish, and there also is some history of my family’s life on the Channel Islands I think too, but you’d have to ask my brother about that as he’s the one who has studied our family tree. Despite not speaking a word of Polish, this is the one area of my family heritage that comes into it’s own around Christmas time.
Because for as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve has meant Polish Christmas Eve Supper – or as I would later discover it to be called the – Wigilia.
Early in the evening we would gather at my grandparents house with all of the extended family, to receive a blessing (given through the breaking of the wafer – Oplatek), we’d eat Nana’s baked fish, and sauerkraut, and rollmop herrings and gherkins and creamy, rich mushroom something (a very thick stew/sauce/soup-like dish) and along with some carols, we’d open presents.
It was amazing.
I remember feeling so special as a kid, because no one else I knew had such a family tradition on Christmas Eve. It extended the experience for us – we seemed to get quadruple the presents and I would see many of my cousins, who lived far away from us the rest of the year.
But what sticks in my mind most, are those memories of the food and the blessing with the Oplatek.
Having my Grandfather and Nana each offer me a personalised blessing for the coming year, made me feel known and loved, and championed – it was a deeply meaningful tradition of connection between young and old, faith and family, and I looked forward to it each year.
Over the years since being married, we have not always been able to head back to join the extended family, but Pete and I have always held our own Wigilia, with some traditional food and ritual, alongside other adaptations which were most practical for our family. The first year we did this, I researched all of the ‘official’ traditional elements of the feast -and enjoyed the journey of discovery.
Subsequently we have always continued the Oplatek – and eaten fish (though never yet Carp) – because those things are our non-negotiables. My kids experience the beauty of sharing in the tradition if the Christmas Eve blessing, and I’ll be delighted if they want to continue it with their children, just as I have.
Which brings me to today’s challenge:
Why not do a little exploration & see if there are a couple of old family or cultural traditions you might like to take & adapt for your clan- adding it to your holiday ritual in some way.Tweet
It could be lighting a candle on Christmas eve and saying a prayer for a particular group of people. Perhaps it’s a walk round the neighbourhood, stopping to bless each house with a little poem.
Maybe your family always made a special bread or dish each year, could you find out the recipe and try it?
Because we are all attached to our heritage to some degree, regardless of whether or not we are happy about it. There is freedom in knowing where you have come from, even if you need to redeem something which has gone sour.
And there is also something beautiful about passing traditions on to our children. It teaches them how they are woven into the bigger story of their family, and the wider story of the human race.Tweet
ps. I’d love to know some of the things you discovered and what you tried, so do let me know via email or in the comments below.