Ok, this is going to get a bit long.
Last night our great sister-in-Christ invited us to her apartment for a traditional Christmas Eve (Wigilia pronounced vigilia). Wigilia is about family and Jesus so they wanted others to join them. Four continents were represented: Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. And there were only seven of us. There were two Poles, one Armenian, one Ivorian (from Ivory Coast), and three Americans. But there was one empty place setting, there must always be, for someone to come and join unannounced or previously invited.
We sat down to a bounty of “fasting” food, traditionally 12 dishes (types of food), one for each of the Apostles. I think we counted 15 dishes since it is also traditional to count each of the types of drinks. It is fasting food because there is supposed to be no “meat”. But fish is not considered meat, so it is a big part of the meal.
First we read the Christmas story from the Bible including the prophecy found in Isaiah 9:6-7. A single candle was then lit to represent Jesus (the light of the world) and around it was straw to remind us of Jesus humble birth and our bounty.
Then we took small wafers of bread called Opwatek (this is what the word sounds like). Each person goes, one at a time, to each of the other people and both share their Opwatek. But they also are to share something they appreciate about the other person. It was a wonderful time of sharing, and as you might think, it was a bit awkward.
Then we sang “Silent Night”, each in our own language at the same time, followed by the Lord’s Prayer the same way before closing in prayer. Then we sat down again for the meal. It started with a broth-like soup called borsch into which you add ears. Ok, so the ears are small dough balls stuffed with cabbage and other yummy stuff. They really are called ears and I really don’t know for sure what was in them.
Then came all the other amazing food as you feel led. Dishes included salmon, carp, potato salad with pickled herring, potato salad without fish, boiled potatoes, boiled beans, sauerkraut with forest mushrooms, sauerkraut without mushrooms, and more. Seven years in central Europe and I finally was able to try carp, and it was good.
After eating too much we moved to the front room where we chatted, sang carols and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Then we, you guessed it, had desert with tea. First was the Makoviets which I was told is fruit, honey, poppy seeds, and noodles. Then came the Compot, dried fruit which has been heated in water with sugar so that it is like a soupy fruit cocktail of sorts.
Then we had fun with a small gift exchange including a time after everyone had opened a present to sway if people wished. Traditionally Christmas Eve everyone opens their gifts. To top it all off we had a wonderful prayer time in four different languages, it was awesome! It was a wonderful time and just before midnight we returned home.
On Christmas day, traditionally, Polish people attend a morning service at their church. Today we are celebrating American style. We stared with opening stockings, then gifts, then a bit of breakfast, and tonight a big meal just the three of us.
We wish you a very Merry, Joyful and Christ-Centered Christmas.
Ps. Ok, so you may be wondering about my prayer request in the Wood Chip. Maybe you are thinking something like: has he had too little sleep, or fallen and hit his head, or maybe too much Christmas carp? Though it is true that I test high on the weird scale, I am “in my right mind”. Maybe almost, anyway.
My greatest hope and prayer this Christmas is that all the modern traditions will lead me to worship and celebrate Jesus on the day we honor His birth. I have a long way to go, but I am confident that our Heavenly Farther is pleased to work in my heart to attain this goal. I also pray that you will join in this endeavor to always keep Jesus literally the “reason for the season”.
Thank you, Jesus, for choosing to come to earth, knowing what it would entail, to be the Savior of the world. Thank you for being my Savior! Happy Birthday Jesus. My gift to You is all of me. I worship You.