No religious or national holiday has the magic, mystery and reverie that Christmas does. Especially for us, Polish emigrants, these holidays are full of nostalgia, reflection, regret, what crushes our hearts, and longing that drives us to Poland, to the family huts, because:
There is a custom in my country that on Christmas Eve,
At the rise of the first evening star in the sky,
People of the common nest break the biblical bread.
They convey their feelings in this bread.
This white, crumbly wafer, a crumb of wheat,
A symbol of great things, a symbol of peace and heaven.
On nestled night, God descends to the earth as before.
Let us unite again, let us forgive the wrongs when necessary.
Let us share the wafer, the bread of peace and heaven.
— CK Norwid, "Opłatek"
Man is closest to nature on this night. Animals feel it and people, especially the poets.
And the trees have their Christmas Eve...
On the shortest day of God's year,
When the snow turns blue at dusk: In veils, like giant lilies, White streaks, pines, firs Listening to the silence with bated breath, Like some monks pondering their prayers.
A mute forest is like a mystery, Silent like waiting, Because something is happening, something will happen, Something will appear, faces will reveal. The forest sent a Christmas tree to each house, Who will bring it a miracle? Snow has fallen on the trees in the forest. A gift for the hands of branches
The forest trembles in tension and hope,
Sometimes the silver fluff will fall
and fly like ghosts of sleep...
Then the heart of the forest stopped beating,
Because with the first star the sky,
And out of the thicket, parting the greenery,
A proud deer emerges
with candles on the dewy horns...
— Leopold Staff, "Christmas Eve in the Forest"
Christmas Eve brings memories of those happy years, and memories of those who passed away. We put an additional plate for those who are absent and sing a carol with them.
I was chilled deaf and dark on Christmas Eve
with a star like with a bright face - pre-war eve
with a house which is still in a thin photo
with a heart that can never die properly
with a silly pen scratching in an inkpot
with an antediluvian saint with Piłsudski in a calendar
with a mommy who wanted to protect with tears
giving the beetroot ravioli which amused us
with a glass of water jug old wydartym unless sky
with the whole family that is still before the funerals
Above the table hung tender my lonely head
over all the figs with poppy seeds - already the post-conciliar
came sat down himself. Like a soldier, she was silent
She handed me Jesus from the first class with a wafer.
— Fr. Jan Twardowski, "Old Christmas Eve"
There was no place for You, in Bethlehem, in any inn.
And you were born, Jesus, in a stable, in poverty and cold.
There was no place, though you descended as Savior to earth,
To free Adam's tribe from the devil's slavery.
There was no place, although you wanted to hug mankind to your womb
And give it from the cross to sinners, redeeming, bloodied arms.
There was no place, although you came down, light the fire of love
And through your most precious passion, save the world from destruction.
When the caterpillars have their holes, and the birds have their
nests There was no inn for you, you had to look for a manger
And today why among people, so many tears, groans, torments
because there is no place for you, in many human souls.
— Fr. Mateusz Jeż (1932)
Let us pray on the Night of Bethlehem, on the
Night of a Happy Solution,
that we may untangle everything,
knots, conflicts, complications.
Let all difficult matters
unravel like knots,
Own ambitions and resentments
They start to laugh like puppets.
Let the nasty worms in us
turn into sheep,
And in our eyes wise tears become
like candles on a Christmas tree.
Let an angel tear every drama
Until the last chapter,
And let it scare every sorrow,
Just like a silly gorilla.
— Fr. J. Twardowski
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ the Saviour is born.
To all people of good will, Poles in Poland and in exile, big and small, lonely and rich, Merry Christmas and a Prosperous Year 2021 from Kuryer Polski!
Translation from Polish - still in progress - by Andrew Woźniewicz.