Monday, February 13, 2017


When I was a kid, my parents weren't big on celebrations. Birthdays and holidays and anniversaries were no big deal. I would get maybe a dollar, more likely 50 cents, for my birthday. For Christmas, a toy. And my parents didn't get the whole "waking up Christmas morning and getting a gift" thing. I would get the toy by going to the store with them and picking out something. I don't remember my parents ever exchanging gifts--not for birthdays or anniversaries or Christmas.

Thanksgiving when I was a kid?

We would have turkey and pumpkin pie, etc. The family was small, just the four of us, and we would have dinner. My parents would let us read at the table and we would. After dinner my parents would sit around, maybe watch TV. Rest up. They both worked in factories and the day after wasn't a holiday for them. My sister and I would go to the movies. There were two movie theaters about 2-3 blocks away, and we would go there and watch a film.

Even when my parents were older and retired and Americanized (!) they still thought the holidays were no big deal. One christmas when my mother was in her mid 70s she announced that she was not going to give any body any more presents. It was just too much work! And she didn't.

Why were they like this?

I have no idea. The only holidays they sort of celebrated or at least acknowledged were the religious ones.

Lent was a big deal. My father -- an alcoholic for much of his life -- would stop drinking during lent. We also fasted for the entire season. We ate one full meal a day and nothing in between meals. And no parties,no celebrations, no movies.

Same thing with Advent.

Holy Saturday, my mom took a basket of food to get blessed by the priest. Easter Sunday morning we all woke up early and went to the earliest mass, 6 am.

The religious side of Christmas was also respected by my parents. Christmas eve we ate traditional Polish Christmas Eve food, shared a Christmas wafer, and prepared for midnight mass.

As I think back on all of this what makes me scratch my head is that my mother -- who was the boss of the family -- wasn't particularly religious. She often missed mass, seldom went to confession, and repeatedly questioned the existence of heaven and God and the stuff the priests said.

I guess she was doing it for my dad. He believed in Jesus and the priests the way a young child does.


The picture above is of me at my first Christmas.  We were in a refugee camp in Germany.  It would have been my parents' 3 Christmas in the refugee camps.

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