Cultural: the Christmas season is (almost) over.
"....so it's okay to play Christmas carols today and tomorrow, but starting February 2, the season is over."
I chuckled to myself when Hania told me this on Monday morning -- it just struck me as funny. Maybe it was worded that way because English is her second language.
For most Americans, it's been long over. I do think that for some of us, it is our temperament - as well as our culture. I know that I prefer looking forward to something more than reflecting back on it - esp. when it's repeating in a few months. If it is something that happens only once - like a wedding, no, it's not the same. But a birthday or a cyclical thing, yes. I also believe it is connected with the Catholic tradition as Catholics the world over may leave their nativity scenes up until Feb. 2.
This whole discussion came about because she was showing me some pictures of a Christmas concert that took place in her church in Warsaw on Sunday - the army orchestra and 3 singers dressed up in their special outfits - it looked really pretty. I've screen shot a picture taken from this website. Since most of you can't read Polish at all, I thought you might like to see what they look like.
My friend's picture only had three singers and a whole orchestra, but you can get the idea - this is how the three singers were dressed.
If you go to that website linked above and click on 'fotogaleria' you can see some more pictures.
On February 2, the church celebrates another feast - which officially signifies the end of the Christmas season - this is in celebration of St. Mary of the Candle of Lighting.
According to Hania, they do not sing Christmas carols in their church until Dec. 24 - which gives them just about 5 weeks of celebrating Christmas. This is pretty much how long Americans celebrate it when they start at the end of November and go through the whole month of December - it's just a different timing. For me it is hard to get excited about the celebrations afterwards - but once again, that's probably just me. The decorations are often quite pretty, however, and they are sometimes difficult to take down. Our town has had them up for quite some time now, and will probably take them down today. The malls do play Christmas songs over the loudspeakers the whole month - sometimes they are Christmas songs, but sometimes they actually do have Christmas carols - mostly in English.
For over 10 years when our children were much smaller, we put on a Christmas program in conjunction with giving out Christmas presents to the area poor. We tried to get into the local senior's center - like an "old folks home" or "geriatric center". They would not let us come before Christmas so we never went.
Here are a couple of pictures from a program from years ago now.
And here the kids are giving the gifts to my husband so he can read off the names as they hand then out.
I thought that our kids and the kids from the church had enough stress on them by putting the program on several times before Christmas and I did not want to spread the stress out until well into January as well.
But this mentality does explain why they would not let us come before Christmas--as especially older folks just don't do well with changing traditions. As far as most people in their homes....some do leave their tree up until almost February - and yes, those real pine trees are getting pretty brown by then. Even that tradition is changing, however, and artificial trees are very popular here.
We haven't done the Christmas outreach for several years now.
During the over 10 years we did this, the Polish mentality was changing and now the Polish people are much better at reaching out to their own needy. They have two programs/outreaches specifically, which reach the same people we were reaching - one is called "Szlachetna Paczka" or "Noble Boxes" and the other is a food bank initiative. Both are conducted by Poles for Poles. This is much healthier to my mind than when Americans give to Poles.
They also started a program "500+" which gives 500 zl a month to every family for every child if you meet certain criterion of 'poverty'. If you are 'not poor', they give it to you after the first child. This initiative alone is sufficient to convince me that parents should have enough extra cash to get their own presents for their own children.
It also means I have been much healthier the last few Christmas seasons. I would get very very sick either during these programs or just after they were over.
But I'm getting sidetracked.
For even the most traditional Pole, it is now time to put Christmas decorations away and get on with the year.
And if you choose to listen to Christmas carols secretly, I won't tell.