“For God so loved the world, that he
gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life.”
Throughout the stages of my life, Christmas has meant different things to me. As a child, to begin the celebration, we would go to my Nana’s house for Wigilia. Wigilia is from the Latin term vigilare meaning “to await”. This traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal began with the breaking and passing of the oplatek which is the consecrated wafer. We would exchange good will and wishes for the coming year, starting with the eldest family member, down to the youngest, children included. The meal always consisted of mushroom soup, halibut, pierogis, sauerkraut and beans and fruit compote. It was the only day of the year we ate this meal.
Gifts were opened after the dishes were done, and the suspense always killed me! In addition, my wonderful yet stern great aunt Ciocia made us open presents in age order so each person could see what the other received. Torture for a kid!
As a child, Christmas also meant Santa! Santa! That great, rolly-polly man from the North Pole who would sneak into our house and leave more presents! The four of us kids would wake up early and run downstairs in great anticipation of what lie underneath our 1970’s aluminum tree with spotlights! Presents!
Christmas Day meant going to the Italian side of the family for my grandma’s gravy, mostaccoli, ham, potatoes, chicken…many loud uncles watching football and screaming bloody murder at the T.V. And guess what? More presents!
As I grew up, Christmas changed. I stopped believing in Santa. We still went to Nana’s for Wigilia, we still went to Grandma Mimi’s for gravy and mostaccoli, we still opened presents on Christmas morning but now I was old enough for midnight mass. How beautiful, the church lit up in the night, the choir singing “O Holy Night.” Christmas took on a different meaning.
By college, Christmas meant a whole month long break from school. It meant hitting the bars with my friends, waking up late, nothing to do all day but lounge around. By this time, my beloved Nana had passed away along with my wonderful Ciocia, but my awesome mom kept up the Wigilia tradition and now I had a sister-in-law and niece! Grandma Mimi’s was as lively as ever, more little cousins added to the brood.
After college, I moved away from home. Far away to a different part of the country to be with the love of my life. I had started working as a nurse and Christmas meant I had to be at work. After all, hospitals don’t close on holidays and I was low nurse on the totem pole. I am truly blessed that my mother-in-law made Christmas away from home as loving and welcoming to me as if I was her own daughter. And my husband held me close and understood my tears on my first Christmas away from home. In the next few years, it didn’t feel like Christmas away from home, because we had made our own home together and wherever he was, that was my home.
In a new chapter of our lives, we have children of our own that bring that magical Santa Claus back! What joy to see our kids’ excitement and we feel like kids ourselves! We moved back, closer to my family and my children have experienced Wigilia and look forward to it every year. My lovely mother-in-law is gone now, but every year I make her special Swedish mondel cookies and send some to my father-in-law and give the best ones to my husband in her memory. Grandma Mimi is gone too, and unfortunately the Italian side doesn’t gather on Christmas anymore. Wah!
Christmas to me is a celebration of birth, of the circle of life, of traditions, of memories, of promises, of joy, sometimes sadness, of love, of family and friends, of beginnings.
Most of all, it is to rejoice in the birth of Christ.
My favorite childhood ornament. Santa used to be on a surfboard and he used to have arms, but I love it anyway!
My first grade teacher, Miss Falvo, gave me this snowman and I kept it all these years.
Front Door Decorations
I would love to hear your Christmas
Peace and Love, Goodwill to Men