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This unique reference book is arranged by month, showing the various occasions, feasts and holidays prominent in Polish culture--beginning with December and Advent, St Nicholas Day, the Wigilia (Christmas Eve) nativity plays, caroling and then New Year celebrations. It proceeds from the Shrovetide period to Ash Wednesday, Lent, the celebration of spring, Holy Week customs then superstitions, beliefs and rituals associated with farming, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, midsummer celebrations, harvest festival, wedding rites, nameday celebrations, birth and death rituals. Line illustrations complete this rich and varied treasury of folklore.
Many of the customs and traditions found herein are extinct even in today's Poland. World wars, massive immigration, the loss of the oral tradition, urbanization and politics have changed the face of a once agrarian people and their accompanying life style. In the U.S., the desire for membership within the "melting pot," marriages outside ones ethnic group, movement to the suburbs away from the "old" communities where customs and traditions were once strong further weakened the link. Although the purpose and meaning may have been lost and forgotten, the oczepiny ceremony (the unveiling) is still the mainstay of almost every wedding where the bride declares Polish heritage.
Many Polish American communities still reenact the harvest celebrations, reminding themselves of their ancestors' reverence for the grains and gifts of bread. Eight million Americans still claim their ancestry as Polish, many still diligently practicing that which they learned at their parents' and grandparents' knees. Much has also been neglected or completely forgotten.
My hopes in writing this book are to educate and to celebrate, to act as a catalyst for the initiation of, or the revival of, various customs and traditions, to offer a sense of rootedness and belonging and, lastly, to preserve a slice of what was the life of a people with whom many can claim, or someday may wish to reclaim, a kinship.
Now updated with a new chapter on "Customs for Kids"!