My family is 100% American. We love food. We are casual. We wear shorts at holiday functions when weather permits. We can sometimes be loud, and we love to have drinks with our meals. We eat outside on fancy paper plates and have our names on Red Solo cups. Our food platters come from Fry’s Deli. We just love to be together.
My husband’s family is 100% Polish. They also love food. They are more formal. They wear their best clothing and jewelry regardless of the weather. They say grace before holiday meals and will share a bottle of wine at the table. They have beautiful formal china and silverware that comes out for every holiday. They spend all morning and sometimes the night before making a bountiful feast fit for royalty (and it is AMAZING). They also love to be together.
So, what happens when a casual all-American girl marries a formal Polish gentleman? Compromise and change. That’s what happens.
Change can be hard, especially for the generation before us who are deep in tradition. My father’s family always did Christmas Eve. My mother always did Christmas morning. My mother-in-law did both Christmas Eve and Christmas Night dinner, both being very formal and rich in tradition. When my husband and I got married, attending all of these events was easy in the beginning. But like my Thanksgiving post last month, once kids came into the picture, it became more difficult.
Change had to happen. And it was hard. My father’s family always had Christmas Eve at one of their homes in the early evening but going to my mother’s-in-laws house straight after was hard. It was wonderful to be with everyone, but all the food she spent all day making, sat untouched because we were full. We had to make some changes, and everyone was on board.
Since Christmas Eve was the hardest, requiring us to be at a few places at once, we decided that it was time to take over the tradition from my dad and mother-in-law. Instead of my them preparing everything and having us all come to them at different times and locations, we have them all come to us now. Everyone now brings a side and we provide the deli platter. It’s easier now for them since they are older, they just have to come and eat. My mother-in-law always brings a few of her Polish dishes of tradition, and now both families are together, combining our American/Polish tradition. Everyone is together, and everyone’s traditions are represented, both formal and not.
Christmas morning still stays with my mother, but my brother-in-law now comes as well now. And then we relax for the afternoon, letting our tummies settle from a wonderful Christmas breakfast, then we make our way over to my mother-in-law’s house for a traditional Polish dinner. We dress up in our Sunday best, and eat enough food to hold us over to New Years. Everyone gets seen and fed, and traditions remained intact.
I grew up opening all presents and stockings on Christmas morning. My husband did everything on Christmas Eve night. I went to candlelight service at 7pm, his family would do midnight mass. Now, we open stockings on Christmas Eve and presents on Christmas morning, church is somewhere after dinner on Christmas Eve.
Today’s Christmas’ are different than when I was growing up. Everyone gathered at one house. It was easy. Yet times and families have changed, so we must adapt to that change.
Fight to keep traditions alive, but don’t fight so hard that in end, they get lost in the battle (as does the bond of family). Blend them together and create some new traditions so they can be passed on to your children, the rich history continuing on.
And when you are able to keep those traditions alive, even with a little change, you will have one big happy (and full) family.