Sunday, December 27, 2009
1.5 Celebrate a Polish/Ethiopian/Tacomian Wigilia
I'm back in Burlington for a day between trips to Tacoma, Washington and Nepal. Celebrating Wigilia wasn't on my list of 52 New Things, since it happened in 2009 and more importantly, is the opposite of a New Thing. Rather, it is my most significant family tradition, and I've celebrated it on and off since the fifth grade with various configurations of Szuberts, Siplons, and other family friends. BUT it turned out this year that there were some new elements, most importantly, celebrating it for the first time ever with my niece, Tigist (and introducing some Ethiopian elements as a result) and celebrating it in a new place (Washington state -- to add to the list of Michigan, Idaho, Florida and Massachusetts).
Wigilia is a formal Polish Christmas Eve dinner that was introduced to our family by our very close family friends, the Szuberts (Conrad, Mary Pat, Lia, Teesie, Marita and Sue), when I was still in elementary school. It is a fairly elaborate multi-course meal that begins with unconsecrated communion wafers (which are broken and exchanged among all the participants) and ends with decadent desserts (which we've Americanized over the years). In between are other courses including caviar and other canapes, pickled herring (for luck in the New Year), borscht soup with mushroom dumplings, and pierogis. There used to be a fairly disgusting aspic course, but after years of it being passed around the table untouched, it fell off the menu, to no one's disappointment. Each course begins with a vodka toast, so things get progressively looser as the evening goes on.
I've never celebrated a Wigilia in Vermont (though I hope to someday), but my sister Katrinka is made of sterner stuff, and has been keeping up the tradition (as have my mom and all the Szuberts with their own families) for years. This year our table included our hosts, Katrinka and Brian and my niece Tigist, Brian's dad and stepmom (Pat and Kathy) and family friends Dave and Pat, and me.
I included a few pictures that I hope Tigist especially will like remembering in future years as a record of her first Wigilia. The first one is her special role in the evening. The meal can't start till the youngest child sees the first star in the sky, and so Tigist had to go out a few times before she found it (and as you can see, she was getting a bit peeved about its non-appearance). There's also a shot of she and me making molasses crinkles for part of the dessert course (and anyone who's had them knows why it's very important for me to teach Tigist how to make them early in her young life), and the last one is Tigist, Brian and me enjoying the final toast of the evening out of Ethiopian horn-carved cups that are now a permanent part of the dinner.
Most families have their own important traditions, and for me, Wigilia is our most meaningful. Over the years it has stretched to include new things and people, as it did this year, and I look forward to many more years of sharing it with my family and friends, especially my wonderful new niece Tigist.
1.5 52 Ways to Say I Love You
In honor of Tigist, this installment of New Words is in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia
Tenastallan (May you be given health)
Good-bye Dehna Hun/Hungi/Hunu (M/F/Plural)
Two beers, please Huleutt bira, abakon
I love you Krishalehou
All the New Things for January from the previous Blog Post still apply (Going to Nepal December 28-January 8, ice climbing January 16, and learning to make mozzarella January 28) and people are welcome (and encouraged!)to join on the latter two -- drop me a line if you're interested.
But wanted to note two more -- one in the near future, one for the summer.
* Take a Penguin Plunge. On Saturday, February 6 at 11 am I'll be joining Erin and 900-odd other people at Waterfront Park taking a freezing dip in Lake Champlain to benefit Special Olympics. Want to join or sponsor? Drop me a line, please.
* Spend an afternoon learning glass-blowing. The other Wigilia participants were full of great new ideas for my list, and this one was my favorite. Tacoma, Washington is the glass-art capital of the United States, and the home of world-reknown glass blower Dale Chihuly. When I go back to Tacoma in July, my sister Katrinka and I are going to sign up for an afternoon introduction to glass blowing (and at the end of it I will have the most expensive paperweight I'll ever buy -- but I'll have made it!)