A Polish Easter

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I’ve always been fascinated by other religions, nationalities, and holiday traditions. For a while, it was hard to understand that not everyone had the same Easter morning rituals as my family. Sure, there were egg hunts and treat-filled baskets, but it was so much more than that.

Easter has always been one of my favorite celebrations. Although the traditions have evolved slightly over the last few years, they remain rooted in the spirit of my great-grandmother. And (other than the true meaning of Easter, of course), the highlight of the day is the bread we make for breakfast.

The Bread

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My granny used to make fabulous Easter bread. The recipe was written down on two sides of a little white index card with a pink flower, but she never had to reference it. It’s a simple combination of everyday items – flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, milk, eggs, and yeast.

Granny was very finicky about the whole baking process. Ingredients were gently folded into each other; the dough was never punched, but lightly kneaded; she barely spoke while making it. I remember how she always let me taste the flour/sugar mixture to make sure it was sweet enough. She let the dough rise, and it sometimes tripled in size. The result was a perfectly sweet and dense, and just delicious bread.

Now, it’s a bit different. My nanny has inherited the bread baking responsibility, and I think she worries too much about making it the same exact way with the same exact results. But, if I’m honest, I think hers comes out better – sweeter, lighter, and just tastier.

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We’ve kept the tradition of baking on Good Friday morning. Since it’s a fasting day, you’re not supposed to eat between meals, but I always manage a few bites because not much compares to the taste of freshly baked bread straight from the oven!

We usually make a few large loaves and a bunch of small roll-ups filled with apricot preserves (my favorite!), cinnamon and sugar, or honey and pecans or walnuts. I’m partial to the little rolls.

The Blessing of the Baskets

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When I was younger, we used to go to St. Joseph’s Church (a Polish church) to get our baskets blessed every Holy Saturday. I enjoyed this. We would bring pretty baskets with our bread, colored eggs, butter lamb, horseradish, ham, and kielbasa. My nanny outfitted them with pretty ribbons and doilies. The priest would say a few words and then sprinkle holy water on the food so that it was ready to eat on Easter morning.

We don’t do this anymore, but I wish we did because it is what made the breakfast even more special.

The Breakfast

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Instead of an Easter lunch or dinner, we always have breakfast. It consists of paczki (Polish cream or jelly-filled donuts), pastries, our bread, colored eggs, cold ham, cold kielbasa, and lots of horseradish. I absolutely LOVE this meal and cherish it because we only have it once a year.

 

How do you celebrate with your family?

Happy New Year!

Chinese New Year, that is.

In a way, I’ve been a little slow going this year. As Martha Stewart would say, I’ve got a lot of “good things” going on. But it’s definitely time go jump back into the swing of things, and what better way to do that than with a celebration?

Celebrations!

When I was younger, my grandmother gave me a book of Celebrations around the World. That was and still is one of my favorite books. I’m Catholic, so I celebrate Easter, Christmas, and the rest of the commercialized American holidays, but it was always fun to read about Purim, Dia de los Muertos, Eid ul-Fitr, St. Nicholas Day, Holi, and many others. I loved seeing the colorful outfits, reading the descriptions of the delicious foods, and learning about traditions that were completely new to me.

Chinese New Year

Goodies from my work celebration: hot & sour soup, traditional Chinese desserts, green apple bubble tea, and general tso chicken.

One of the most colorful celebrations is Chinese New Year. It’s a 15-day tradition to welcome in the year with parades, yummy foods, gifts of good fortune, and family time. In the days before the New Year, families clean their houses from top to bottom to get rid of last years bad luck and welcome the good health, happiness, and fortune of the New Year.

Red Envelopes

The Chinese see red as the symbol of joy, energy, happiness, and good luck. During the new year they place crisp money in red envelopes and give them as gifts to family and friends. This is a way of wishing the recipient a happy new year filled with good luck. Traditionally you accept the envelope with two hands and to be polite, do not open the envelopes in front of the giver.

Chinese Zodiac

2017 is the year of the Rooster, the fire Rooster, to be more precise – a combination that only happens once every 60 years. Those born during the year of the Fire Rooster are thought to be very trustworthy and responsible with their work.

Unfortunately, according to Chinese Astrology, it’s unlucky if your birth sign matches the current zodiac sign. Take extra precautions to avoid any dangers or warnings. For everyone else, however, 2017 is said to be a year of good fortune and happiness. I think we can all rejoice in hearing that!

For more information about the Rooster Sign, Chinese Zodiac Signs, and Chinese culture in general, check out this comprehensive site.

Happy New Year and may it be filled with health, wealth, and happiness!