It’s finally cold outside. I need my winter coat. No snow yet, but the local shops are putting up their displays and the Town is getting ready for a holiday blow out this weekend: tree lightings, caroling, special promotions at shops and restaurants. White lights are draped over trees in Arlington Center and trees are on sale, ready for ornaments all all that.
We’ll probably pick out a tree this weekend, just in time to kick off Hanukkah! I’ll have to dig out my husband’s menorah and remind him to get candles so we can light the thing. My travel arrangements for Buffalo are set and I’m starting to look around for presents to purchase or make.
Okay, so this is feeling cool. I’m getting into it. It’s been a little hard to get into the spirit since my mom passed, but enough time has transpired so that I can feel that holiday joy in my heart.
I’m the Christian in the household, who ends up nagging my Jewish husband incessantly about Hanukkah. “Can we light the candles now? Can we light the candles now?” It’s the light thing, maybe a mental extension of my love of lights and color around Christmas. Winter is depressing. Light makes a lot of difference, particularly when it’s cold and dark outside.
So, we light candles, plug in trees and sing. A bit of light and harmony in more than one sense. I wish the rest of the world could do that. Say, I like your holiday, can I have some?
My lucky streak with colds seems to have ended. I’m working my way through my second one in as many months. I’m at the head-plugged stage where I’m feeling better but sound worse. This is actually the worst part of having a cold for me. My hearing is rather sensitive and I go nuts when my ear pressure changes, as it’s doing now. I can’t focus and my balance is off because of the fluid in my inner ear.
As a result, I focused on some Christmas decorating yesterday, since it’s pretty mindless and doesn’t get upset whenever I have to stop to blow my nose or pop my ears. Plus, I was was feeling poorly and wanted lights and pretty trees, dammit! The hubby and I did a bit of Hanukkah shopping for his family yesterday morning, then we picked up two mini-trees for the living room. I managed to string them with lights and only broke two ornaments as I tried to string tinsel garland around them. My husband came to the rescue with that, otherwise I would have probably tipped the damn trees over.
I spent a restless night not being able to sleep or breathe, but was rewarded with the sight of two pretty little Christmas trees when I came downstairs for coffee. I also wrapped a few presents, to add even more color. Pretty, pretty, pretty! Then I put out a colorful tablecloth on the table in the dining room, popped a bouquet of flowers into the middle of it and lit a candle. Then I saw down and read, blew my nose, took little bitty naps and enjoyed the view.
Yuletide greetings and happy Kwanzaa (is that right?), wherever – and whoever – you are! Love, peace and plenty of eggnog. Ahhh, the world’s feeling better. Now tell me more about your holiday preps?
We're moving through the holiday season, so I thought I'd offer best wishes for a Happy Hanukkah. My nephews are going to be in town tonight to celebrate. We'll be going over to my in-laws' house for dinner and candle lighting. Then it'll be on to Western New York for Christmas with my side of the family!
I went to a Polish neighborhood in Boston with a friend of mine this afternoon. It's an emigre community, with a few small shops that carry food from the homeland, or about as close to it as you can get. I've done business with a few of the shops there around Easter. There's an old-time Polish baker who makes a babka that's second to none. There's also a deli run by an entrepreneurial Polish emigre family and they have some of the best stuff around. A lot of their prepared foods are home-made, or made specifically for them. They have fantastic meats: sausages, cold cuts and the like, along with a lot of baked goods, imported items, sweets, lots and lots of fantastic types of bread and more. They recently started carrying alcohol as well and had some interesting and tasty offerings along those lines.
Going there is always a treat. There's a Polish restaurant across the street from one of the shops, owned by that same emigre family. They're hard at work in the kitchen or behind the counter: no slackers here. They also own a small publishing company that puts out a Polish newspaper that's circulated throughout the country. I'd run ads for my business in it from time to time and it's always brought in new customers.
Since the holidays are coming up, my friend and I decided to stock up on some items for that occasion. My husband asked that I also pick up some stuff for dinner tonight, which I happy obliged to do.
So what was on our plate for dinner this evening? Cabbage rolls in tomato sauce (golabki), a double-smoked kielbasa and three types of vegetable salads. One of the salads was made in-house and two were jarred salads imported from Poland. I had also brought home some pierogi, but it really looked as though that would be overkill, so I put it aside for later. No rye bread, alas. I was planning on the pierogi being the "dough" portion of the meal, but we ate well nonethless.
I also loaded up on stuff for the folks back home: several different types of pierogi, ham, various types of Polish cheese, salami, two types of kielbasa and some imported items like tea and sweets. We'll, of course, bring the leftover vegetable salads back with us, where they'll promptly be devoured.
I'll have enough for hors d'oeuvres (cheese and salami), Christmas presents (imported chocolates, fruit-flavored syrups and teas), breakfast on Christmas morning (kielbasa), snacks and sandwiches (ham and cheese).
Tomorrow is the first night of Hanukkah, which my husband and his family celebrate. We're going to be visiting the in-laws before leaving town, so some of my bounty might find its ways to their table tomorrow night as well.
I'm Polish-American, so we celebrate Wigilia on December 24. Christmas Eve is far more important than Christmas day and we have a number of food traditions we still follow.
The meal is traditionally meat-less, although fish is permitted and served. The meal itself is a representation of the farm's winter bounty: food from field, preserving cellar and orchard. Traditional dishes include pierogi, sauerkraut with dried mushrooms, fish, soup and rye bread. There's lots of sour cream, too. We usually begin the feast with shrimp cocktail (God knows where that one came from, but every Pole I know does this!) with rye bread. Then we have a meatless barscht (Polish for borscht, or beet soup). Sometimes we'll have a dried mushroom soup, and on one occasion my sister (who puts on this feast every year) also made a sweet almond soup. The main dishes – pierogi, fish, sauerkraut, etc. – follow this.
Dessert is wonderful. We serve a traditional dried fruit compote that's spiced up with whole cloves and orange peel. It's served cold or at room temperature. Traditional breads include a poppy seed roll. No, that's not a little roll, but a dessert bread made like a jelly roll. The filling is made of sweetened, ground poppy seeds. We also serve a type of babka called placek (plot-tsek). This is more of an Easter bread, but we always serve it at Christmas, too.
We also have more American style desserts, at least if someone's baked cookies or other types of holiday breads. After dinner we open presents and spend time together as a family.
Christmas day is no big deal. We usually sit around and digest! I usually cook Christmas dinner and sometimes we'll have visitors that come to the house to say hello.
We've started a new tradition for Boxing Day, too. That's December 26. My sister-in-law is British/Canadian so we've started going up to southern Ontario (my family lives in Buffalo, right on the border) for another (groan!) meal there.
Overall, it's wonderful. Good thing I like to walk, though!
So, what are your holiday food traditions, whether they be for Christmas or Hanukkah? Let us all know, even if they're nothing special.