Loading...
Bless Wellcome Middle School's heart. They are the best kept secret in the county. Great things are happening there and...

Christmas traditions nourish the soul

Loading…

Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Q I lost the clipping with your Christmas story from several years ago. I enjoyed reading it at this time of year. Can you print it again? — M.M., Greenville

A My husband Patrick and I wish you a merry Christmas and joyful winter holidays. I have written several times about honoring our traditions to nourish our soul. A colleague of mine reminded me of a line from a column I wrote several years ago: “As you make new memories, I hope you will be able to think of old ones with a smile.” I am smiling as I retell my memories of Christmas traditions past. Here are bits and pieces of earlier columns — updated a bit.

Most of us find joy in traditional food feasts. While at times I sound like a “food cop” to many of you, I have spent my career studying how food and food ceremonies nourish the body and soul of people of all cultures. Immigrants to our country often turn to traditional ways of feasting.

Although we have lived in eastern North Carolina since 1983, I often include Polish American traditions in my holiday celebration. When I was a child in Detroit, my family would go to babcia’s (grandmother) house for the Christmas Eve or Wigilia dinner. The entire large Kolasa clan would be there.

The meal would begin with the ceremony of “breaking the bread.” The opłatek Communion-like wafer, imprinted with the Nativity scene, would be shared with everyone at the table. The ceremony was quite solemn and loving at the adult table, and quite rowdy at the kids’ table. All exchanged good wishes. Since this night is considered a vigil, there would always be an empty place at the table with straw under the tablecloth waiting for baby Jesus. As kids, we couldn’t wait until we were old enough to go to midnight Mass and have an early celebratory breakfast.

We have all grown and my brothers and sister have also left Detroit. We married into families with other traditions. The special meatless night of creamed herring, mushroom soup, pierogi and fish and chrust/faworki (light, delicate, angel wing pastries) is a memory. Babcia made the pierogi for the kids because most of us didn’t like eating fish at the time. We skip the pierogi now — they are a lot of work and store-bought ones just aren’t the same.

Each of my siblings has kept some elements of the celebration, though we have not celebrated Christmas in Detroit for many years. None of us is eager to brave the bad weather. We still break the opłatek, no longer purchased from nuns at school (it was a fundraiser for them) but by mail order. Sylvia English, a great local diabetes educator in our community, made sure I had some. Now her daughter, Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, is continuing her mom’s tradition of caring for the well-being of our community and makes sure I have a supply.

The years we travel to Tucson for the holiday, Wigilia is now dinner at the country club. Before his retirement, my brother Dick ensured there was a special Polish dish or two on the fabulous buffet. We don’t eat all day long like we used to. In Polish-American Detroit, Christmas Day was a quiet day reserved for church service followed by visiting. We weren’t allowed to play with the new toy until the 26th.

Christmas was about Jesus, family and friends, and it was mom’s birthday, too. Friends and relatives would drop in for an “open house” where turkey, ham, Polish sausage, rye bread, Christmas babka (coffee cake), eggnog and holiday cookies and special candies were served. My sister and I laugh at how Mom never baked cookies except at Christmas, and then they were too pretty to eat. She carefully decorated Santa cookies with raisins for eyes, red sugar for cheeks, lips and cap and white icing for eyebrows with coconut added for beard.

Each Santa was wrapped and hung on the cookie tree with a red ribbon waiting for each child who visited to carry home their special cookie. When my sis and I are together at Thanksgiving in Georgia, we use the well-worn cutters and bake a few cookies to share the memory.

I clipped an article a few years ago from a Polish American newspaper titled “Holiday traditions could ease modern day tensions.” I think it is true. Time and traditions change for everyone. Some of the change we welcome, some we are slow to accept. Our ancestors ate foods needed for their survival. They often had too much fat (needed for scarce calories) or too much salt (for food preservation). In today’s world, those practices may increase our risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and obesity. We can enjoy those foods, honoring an old family tradition, but find healthier “everyday foods.”

As we move into the New Year, I am hoping that eating healthy will be the norm rather than the exception for more people in our community. But for now, pause to remember a loved one or friend that you are missing this holiday season, enjoy a memory of a special food you shared — with a smile.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Look

February 17, 2019

The pulse of the universe beats in the air of Pluto.

Pluto, the famous dwarf planet in our Solar System, is cold, extremely cold, year round. It is especially cold during its 124-year long winter, when it is so frigid that its wan atmosphere freezes to the icy surface. Then, in summer, the ice…

Pluto

February 17, 2019

In recognition of Black History Month, The Daily Reflector is excerpting the following NCPedia article by Steven A. Hill, a teacher at J.H. Rose High School who has been working to chronicle a history of Pitt County’s Schools. Visit www.ncpedia.org/eppes-charles-montgomery for the…

eppes.jpg

February 17, 2019

One Father's Day, when I was 6 years old, I asked my dad why there was no such thing as "Kids' Day," and he said, "Because every day is kids' day." And that's my feeling about Presidents Day. Every day is Presidents Day. Besides, I'm not quite sure if not getting my mail is going to make me think…

JimMullen

February 17, 2019

One of the surest signs of middle age is a Facebook feed full of friends detailing their medical ailments.

Just this week, I counted not one, not two, but three pals who were undergoing knee replacement surgery. One proudly posted a post-op X-ray showing what looked like a spring in her leg.…

bionicman

February 16, 2019

Although we’ve had some warm weather, it's still winter. But as a tease, paper-whites are opening up in the yard, and red maples are already showing their bright flowers. Fragrant Daphnes and a few withering winter-sweets are scattered around the neighborhood, and this afternoon we had a…

021619mystery.JPG

February 15, 2019

There have been plenty of movies about tough women. In fact, picking the Top 10 is harder than you might think. But here goes, the ones I picked and the ones I didn’t.

10) Trinity, “The Matrix” — Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity was hacker chic before the hacker chic of…

Sigourney Weaver

February 13, 2019

If you’re hungry and seeking more authentic flavor for your next meal, why not and take a trip to India without leaving Greenville. Go beyond steak & potatoes, dive into a new culture, expand your culinary palate and you’ll be sure to add Cinnamon Indian Cuisine to your top…

20190206_123537.jpg

February 13, 2019

Q: My girlfriend is a health nut, but I really want to give her some chocolate for Valentines. Is it ok? MK, Greenville

A: Kathryn Clary, a Brody medical student, suggests that dark chocolate really can prevent a broken heart with its benefits to the cardiovascular system. Here is what she wants…

Kolasa, Kathy

February 10, 2019

You're from out of town going 65 mph down the highway heading west, and you want to catch another highway going north. What do you think the exit sign should say in 3-foot-tall letters?

A) Gophertown

B) Exit 42

C) Gov. Tiddwilly Memorial Highway

D) Pinewood Mall

Quick, you've got nanoseconds to…

JimMullen

February 10, 2019

I was thinking recently about all the fallout from the removal of the Confederate soldier statue, “Silent Sam,” at UNC-Chapel Hill.

That, in turn, led me to remember the deafening silence of UNC’s first African American cheerleader, Jimmy Womack, during the football season of 1966…

Bob Garner
124 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 13
        Next Page»   Last Page»