Polish community comes together to celebrate Wigilia

COLUMBIANA — Polish Arts Club of Youngstown member Lisa Lotze explained the importance of traditions and their power to make ordinary days special as part of her welcoming speech and explanation for why the dishes were meatless at the Polish Arts Club’s Wigilia celebration.

“Animals were the first to see Jesus when he was born, and as a result, they are given a voice at midnight,” Lotze said. “So you really don’t want to be eating something that might be talking to you later that night.”

Sunday’s celebration was a recreation of how Poles around the world celebrate Christmas Eve. The event featured a traditional Polish dinner, with pierogies and mushroom soup featured.

Lotze believes traditions connect us to our past, noting that a lot of Americans don’t care for it nowadays. She stresses the importance of incorporating them into our daily lives.

Traditions are important and I think one of the things that are unfortunate for Americans is that we, (a) lot of people, aren’t embracing traditions.” Lotze said. She suggested, if you don’t have traditions from a family, then create your own.

“Traditions make days and celebrations special and set them apart from every other day of the year, and those are things that children are going to remember when they get older,” Lotze explains. “We might have grumbled about it when we were kids, but we all remember them. Now we look fondly at them.”

“My children, initially, when they were younger, were very confused. And now as adults, some of their favorite memories are the customs and the traditions that we had,” Lotze added.

“Wigilia makes Christmas Eve special and different from any other day of the year, and the traditions connect us with the people from our past,” said Lotze. “It’s kind of like my outfit; I have my great aunt’s bracelet, my grandmother’s necklace, my mother-in-law’s jacket on.”

Polish Arts Club treasurer Ken Giba explained that one of the biggest challenges they faced putting the event together was starting from scratch again.

“Getting people to utilize their best talents … and we had a couple of meetings. We kind of picked people that had different things,” Giba said. “But our biggest asset was we all communicated with each other via text messaging or phone calls and we’re always in communication.”

Giba added that it helped that Sabi’s head chef, Sebastian Chomczyk, is originally from Poland, too.

Funds raised at the event went to the club’s scholarships, which go to deserving college-bound seniors and current college students. According to Giba, the scholarships normally amount to approximately $2,000.

Rev. Joseph Rudjak led attendees in the blessing and sharing of oplatek, whose honey and garlic symbolize the bitter and joyful times, and was shared so everyone could share each other’s burdens.

Handmade gwiazdki, Polish star Christmas ornaments and T-shirts were also available for purchase, and the event included a 50/50 basket raffle featuring numerous goodies.



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