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James Callow Folklore Archive

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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS CUSTOMS, POLISH

THE TRADITIONAL POLISH CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS BEGINS BY OBSERVING
THE ADVENT SEASON, AWAITING THE FESTIVE CHRISTMAS. THIS IS
CULMINATED AT THE VIGILIA MEAL, SERVED ON CHRISTMAS EVE. THIS IS
THE TRANSITION BETWEEN ADVENT AND THE DAY ON WHICH POLES COMMEMERATE
CHRIST'S BIRTH. THE WORD VIGILIA MEANS WATCHING AND THIS IS IN
EFFECT WHAT THE PARTICIPANTS DO. THE MENU INCLUDES HERRING, WHICH IS
THE MAIN COURSE. THIS IS EATEN WITH MILK SYMBOLIZING A BITTER-SWEET
TIME OF REPENTANCE AND AWAITED JOY. UPON THE CONCLUSION OF THE MEAL
THE CHRISTMAS WAFER (OPLATEK) IS BROKEN FIRST BY THE HEAD OF THE
HOUSEHOLD AND DISTRIBUTED TO MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY, THE OLDEST
RECIEVING HIS PORTION FIRST. EACH FAMILY MEMBER IN TURN BREAKS THE
WAFER WITH ANOTHER WISHING PEACE AND GOOD WILL TO ONE ANOTHER. THE
WAFER SYMBOLIZES THE BLESSINGS OF CHRIST THAT ARE HOPED TO BE
BESTOWED DURING THE COMING YEAR. FOLLOWING THE MEAL A SZOPKA MAY BE
PRESENTED. THIS IS A PUPPET SHOW RE-ENACTING "THE NATIVITY" AND IS
SHOWN IN A SPECIALLY BUILT, RICHLY ORNATE, WOODEN STAGE. IN THIS
WAY THE CHILDREN OF THE POLISH FAMILY COME TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUE
MEANING OF CHRISTMAS.
NO MORE ACTIVITY TAKES PLACE IN THE HOME. IT'S MEMBERS ASSUME A
SOMBER CONDITION OF MIND AND DEPART FOR THE MIDNIGHT MASS. THIS MASS
IS THE TRADITIONAL PASTERKA IN WHICH THE SOLOMN TONE OF THE SEASON IS
HIGHLIGHTED BY THE SINGING OF KOLENDY OR POLISH NATIONAL CHRISTMAS
CAROLS. FOLLOWING MASS THE FAMILY RETURNS HOME AND EXCHANGE GIFTS.
NEW YEARS EVE IS NOT CELEBRATED AS A FESTIVE EVENT, BUT THE FEAST OF
THE THREE KINGS SYMBOLIZES THE END OF THE POLISH CHRISTMAS SEASON.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; DETROIT ; WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY ; LOUNGE ; TOLD AT

Subject headings: 645 September 23 Equinox to December 20
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- January 1 New Year's
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- January 6 Twelfth Day Epiphany
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 24 Christmas Eve Menus
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 24 Christmas Eve Oplatki
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Manger scenes
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Gifts, gift giving at Christmas
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Songs, caroling
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- December 21 solstice to March 20 Church

Date learned: 11-26-1970

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SUPERSTITION

ACCIDENTLY SWEEP SOMEONE'S FOOT WITH THE BROOM--BAD LUCK.
THIS CAN BE CONVERTED BY SPITTING ON THE BROOM.

Submitter comment: THE INFORMANT STATES THAT THE BROOM IS ASSOCIATED WITH
THE ACCESSORIES OF A WITCH, WHO IS SOMEONE EVIL. THEREFORE,
SWEEPING SOMEONE'S FOOT WITH THE BROOM IS THE SAME AS
TRANSFERRING EVIL SPIRITS TO THE PERSON. SPITTING IS
USED TO RID THE BODY OF THE EVIL SPIRITS.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT ; DETROIT ; LOUNGE

Subject headings: BELIEF -- Conversions

Date learned: 02-22-1979

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SUPERSTITION

WEAR WHITE UNDERWEAR ON THE FIRST OF THE YEAR TO BE
PROTECTED FROM EVIL SPIRITS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.

Submitter comment: WHITE, AS THE SIGN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN NOT BE
TOLERATED BY EVIL SPIRITS, ACCORDING TO THE INFORMANT.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT ; DETROIT ; LOUNGE

Subject headings: Favorites
CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- January 1 New Year's
ART CRAFT ARCHITECTURE -- Dress Overall body coverUpper body and arms
BELIEF -- Devil Demon
BELIEF -- Measure of time Year
BELIEF -- Color

Date learned: 02-22-1979

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SUPERSTITION

STEPPING ON THE HEEL OF SOMEONES FOOT--BAD LUCK. THIS CAN
BE CONVERTED BY KNOCKING THREE TIMES ON THEIR BACK.

Submitter comment: THE INFORMANT OFFERS NO EXPLAMATION FOR THE BELIEF BEYOND THE FACT
THAT STEPPING ON OTHER'S HEEL CAN CAUSE THE PERSON TO TRIP AND
FALL. THE INFORMANT SEES THE CONVERSION ACT AS PURE
NONSENSE.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT ; DETROIT ; LOUNGE

Subject headings: 686 Thirds / Thrice / Three / Triple
BELIEF -- Body part Senses
BELIEF -- Bad luck
BELIEF -- Conversions

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SUPERSTITION

WALKING STRAIGHT AHEAD, TURNING AROUND, AND WALKING IN THE OPPOSITE
DIRECTION--BAD LUCK.

Submitter comment: THIS BELIEF WAS SEEN AS BAD LUCK BECAUSE IT DEMONSTRATED
A STATE OF INDECISION AND UNCERTAINTY IN WHICH DIRECTION TO
CONTINUE, AND THEREFORE THIS STATE WOULD PRODUCE HAVOC.

Where learned: MICHIGAN ; UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT ; DETROIT ; LOUNGE

Subject headings: BELIEF -- Bad luck

Date learned: 02-22-1979

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showing 5 items

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