Oldest Christmas Traditions

Our Christmas traditions have evolved through the years. These are from my younger years:

One of my earliest memories is of Christmas at “Babi’s”. Babi being shortened from the Polish word for grandmother, babka. It seemed like such a long ride going to her house on East 141st street in Cleveland. We lived on 81st & Aetna. Being that Christmas Eve occurs during one of the shortest days of the year, it was always dark when we left my house. I remember always watching for the three tall evergreen trees that signified that we were getting close. All of my aunts and uncles and cousins would go. I always hung out with Donna, who was the closest in age and my best friend. Her older brother, Gerry, would chase use around the house with a couple of coat hangers, telling us that he was going to hang us up. We always wound up hiding in the bathroom until someone would find us.

I have no idea how my tiny Babi made all that food! She would make many loaves of sweet bread with raisins and many apple pies. A big pot of meat-free mushroom soup would be simmering on the stove. Multitudes of pierogi, including cabbage, sweet cheese, and prune, had already been prepared and ready to fry. There was a whole ham and sauerkraut slow simmered with cabbage, onions and kielbasa, along with both fresh and smoked kielbasa for after midnight mass. We would sit at the table and say a prayer, then Babi would pass around the Oplatki, thin wafers blessed by a priest. Then we would eat! Afterwards, we opened gifts. The families with children would then go home, taking extra portions of food home with them. My father always rated a whole apple pie just for himself! Once home we would go to midnight mass. Santa always came in the morning! The following day we would go to the home of my other grandparents (of Polish descent) My grandmother always made lots of bread, a ham and kielbasa but I don’t remember much more.