Sunday, January 2, 2011

Home for the Holidays

My Polish sister-in-law, Kamila, sets an extra place at the table and heaps the would-be diner's plate high in keeping with the Polish tradition of preparing for an unexpected guest. Everyone takes a piece of wafer that is broken and distributed and we wish each other health and happiness in the New Year. Kamila's mother passes around homemade motsch, a gingerbread "soup", and makufki, poppyseed cake, both staples on the Polish Christmas table.

My Italian father-in-law pops open a bottle of prosecco and scrambles to stop it from overflowing. I set out a plate of cookies beneath the tree for Santa, my one insistence on an American tradition from my childhood.

Later, we dim the lights and assemble the German feuerzangenbowle - a pot of mulled wine straddled by a metal bridge supporting a sugar cone. Strong whiskey is ignited and ladled over the cone. The chemical reaction sends blue flames high enough to scourge the ladler's eyebrows and we ohh and ahh over the spectacle. As if this show of pyrotechnics was not enough, we light candles ON the tree - a German tradition that has always flabbergasted me. How these extremely practical, risk-adverse people could light a tree on fire is beyond me. But it's gorgeous and it glows as we sing a round of "O Tannenbaum".

Although some of us are far from our homelands, preserving our Christmas traditions by sharing them with our extended patchwork family makes it feel like I am home for the holidays. 
This post was entered into the Grantourismo HomeAwayUK travel blogging contest for December. We'd love to hear what you think. 

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful story and a beautiful tradition - of maintaining traditions!

    Thanks for the last minute entry! Best of luck!