Christmas in the Kresy, the eastern borders of Poland. Part II: Memoirs from Podole
Photo from Semanticscholar.org. Map of the Podole region in yellow from which these excerpts are taken.
“A few days before the (Christmas Eve) supper, preparations began. First, we cleaned and then decorated a Christmas tree brought from the forest. Grandma cooked wheat berries for kutia, it had to be pounded so that the husk fell off. The kutia was cooked for about six hours, stirring from time to time so that it didn’t burn through. There was dough for pampushki (also spelled pampuszki), which mama helped her with, and we helped with setting the table. Grating poppy seeds was the privilege of our grandfather Stanisław. Grandmother Weronika allotted this very serious matter only to him. The poppy seeds had to be crushed gently so as not to break the makutra(also spelled makitra, makotra) which had been bought before the war. The makogon (wooden pestle) was made by Grandma's elder son, Władysław, when he just started working in a machine tool factory in the mid-1950's."
A makutra was a specially made clay bowl with interior horizontal grooves that helped crush the poppy seeds. Photo #1 from Muzeum Etnogaficzne Kraków. Photo #2 from Wikipedia
"We helped grandfather by holding the makutra with our hands and sprinkling in more poppy seeds and sugar. I remember how you wanted to just stop the moment and use your tongue to lick a little bit of this poppy from the makogon. The process of grating poppy seeds and cooking wheat grains took a long time. One of us jumped out to the street from time to time to look for the first star…”
Polish artists #1 Jan Wasilewski #2 T. Popiel #3 H. Ciechowicz depict looking for the first star on Christmas Eve.
“The most interesting aspect was preparing the Christmas Eve table. My older sister and father were making a diduch(also spelled didukh, and in Poland, called dziad) out of different types of ears of grain. You had to weave them together very hard so that the family was always strong not only on Christmas, but also throughout the year.(See note at end) We brought hay from a neighbor and sprinkled it under the tablecloth, part of the hay was placed in the manger. Mama would take out her most beautiful embroidered tablecloth and cover the table with it. Grandma would bring a lighted candle and the opłatek, saying: “Opłatek on the table - light on the table.” The candle was left lit until we all left for the midnight mass so that darkness would not surround our families and for everyone to clearly see their way through life.
"The next dish that went to the table was kutia richly seasoned with honey, nuts, poppy seeds. Wheat grain guaranteed the presence of bread all year round, nuts - strength and health, poppy seeds drove away even the smallest worries and honey was a reward for the most hardworking bees in the family. Apples, garlic and a coin were also placed on the table. Apples - for every child to be ruddy and healthy, garlic was to protect against diseases and various impure forces, and the coin symbolized abundance in the next year. Then, other food went to the table, fish, herring, vinaigrette, followed by cabbage stuffed with buckwheat and also mushroom soup. Mama’s favorite was pampuchy (yeast raised bun, sometimes a pancake) fried in oil, a fragrant miracle she was able to conjure up from flour, yeast, water, a bit of salt and sugar. Two kinds of drinks were allowed on the Christmas Eve table: pure spring water, so that the ideas of everyone in the family would always be pure towards others, and uzwar (compote of dried plums, apples, pears and a few viburnum berries) so that the power of the fruit strengthened the blood and soul."
"At the beginning of the supper, Father took the wafer ( in his hands and everyone, standing, said "Our Father" and "Hail Mary", and thanking God for the past year [and] holidays, asked God for blessing for the next holidays and year. Then everyone started eating, starting with the kutia. "
"For the New Year at midnight we always went to church for the thanksgiving service and the Holy Mass to welcome the new year. January 6 - Epiphany, in Podolia – was a second holy evening. After returning from the church, where the priest blessed water, chalk and gold, grandfather would write an inscription on the door with holy chalk, for example, 19 = K + M + B = 86. On that day, there was always kutia for supper. In this way, we sympathized with our Orthodox brothers who were experiencing the Christmas Eve supper."
Excerpts from: Boze Narodzenie na Podolu (Polish Christmas in Podolia) by Nela Szpyczko who interviewed inhabitants of Grodek Podolski. 2004) Tworczow Ludowy Kwartalnik.Nr. 1-4 2005.
Diduch - click on the word and the link which will take you to see traditional and current examples of a diduch.
Sending sincerest wishes to everyone for a blessed Christmas and New Year. May these special days instill hope and bring you joy, love and peace.
Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia!
Веселих Різдвяних свят!
12/23/2022 02:05:12 pm
Hola no se el ucraniano, quería saber cómo eran las costumbres en otras zonas como pueblos de HRUSKA, humnyska y tlumach. Creo que algunos pertenecían a oblast de Ivano-frankvisk. gracias
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One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.