Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How does Poland celebrate Halloween?

This is the top keyword search phrase for Kielbasa Stories this week. The second top keyword search phrase is gross and makes me regret using the word kielbasa in the name of my blog.
So how does Poland celebrate Halloween?
I would have to say, grudgingly.
If you want to get a taste of Halloween in Japan, please check out Srodowe bento - wersja halloweenowa.
A conversation I had with Misiu just came to mind. We were sitting in the one and only coffeehouse in my little American hometown this summer just sipping our coffees and watching the world go by. Misiu was trying to come up with the proper word to describe my hometown.
“Quaint?” I offered.
“No,” he said.
“Rural? Agricultural? Out-of-the-way? Folksy?”
“Nope.  I was thinking ramshackle.”
“Oh, ramshackle. I can see it.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

With all due respect, Bishops of Poland,…

…I think you missed the point.

You can disagree with Halloween in Poland for many reasons. I’m American and I celebrate Halloween in Poland for one reason and one reason only – my children. I didn’t celebrate Halloween here before I had kids and I will probably stop (excluding the occasional jack o’ lantern) when they reach the age that they are “too cool” to celebrate it. I choose to celebrate Halloween with my children here in Poland because I want to share a bit of my childhood with them. We also go with them to the cemetery on November 1st and 2nd. They are Polish children after all. Well, Polish/American.
I have such fond memories of dressing up, bobbing for apples, going trick-or-treating. I went to Catholic School and we had to go to Mass every single morning, but what a fantastic morning it was when our priest conducted Mass dressed up as Dracula. Seriously. We were in awe. Our priest along with the nuns (usually dressed as witches) escorted us each year on a Halloween parade around the neighborhood. It was a lot of fun. I also remember my grandmother’s neighbors who dressed up as Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride of Frankenstein every year. They decorated their front porch with scary decorations and lights and even played scary music. It was great. I want my kids to have some fun Halloween memories too. I don’t want to import Halloween to Poland and insert it into Polish society. We celebrate on a small scale with willing participants only. If it helps, I would gladly remove McDonald’s and Starbucks from Poland if I could. Poland for the Polish ;)
OK, I got a little carried away. Back to Halloween.
You can disagree with Halloween in Poland because it encourages consumption (because candles and wreaths and Sidolux for cleaning graves are all free).
You can disagree with Halloween in Poland because it is cultural colonization from the west (so drop that Happy Meal and put down that Coke).
You can disagree with Halloween in Poland because you think it encourages hooliganism, or you can disagree with Halloween in Poland because you think it is stupid or because  masz wszystko w dupie.
That’s fine with me.
But you cannot disagree with Halloween in Poland because it promotes the occult. Because it doesn’t. You cannot send letters home to parents that celebrating Halloween breaks the 1st commandment. Because it doesn’t. You cannot tell kids that carving a pumpkin is a sin. Because it isn’t.
Does Andrzejki promote the occult? It is more mystical than Halloween. Does Karnawal promote the occult? Kids’ karnawal parties look pretty much like Halloween minus the dynia.
And what do you think of this poster? Pretty funny, isn’t it? Or pretty drastic? We had the exact same situation with Rosie. Suddenly, she couldn’t fall asleep at night. We couldn’t leave the room. What was going on? The explanation was surprisingly simple. She’s 4. She goes to pre-school. She is not signed up for Religia but the teachers seem to forget about that and let her in the room during Religia. She’s too little to tune out the Religia teacher. Soooo, we spent one week checking under the bed for “Niewidzialny Jezus”. Thanks Religion Teacher.
Ogłupianie dzieci duchami na tzw. Halloween – przysporzy klientów psychiatrom w przyszłości!
If you’d like to “sracz i rzygać jednoczesnie” (as Misiu so eloquently put it), you can read the opinion of Polish bishops on the topic of Halloween.
Here are only two articles but you can easily find more and more.
Here are some more opinions about Halloween w Polsce from the net.
Halloween w Polsce

Zapamiętajcie raz, a dobrze – w Polsce obchodzimy, Dzień Wszystkich Świetych, nie "Halloween".
Wyjaśnijcie mi jedno:
Miej świadomość – co świętujesz
Może zamiast amerykańskiego halloween – spróbowalibyśmy sięgnąć do polskich tradycji?
Najstraszniejsze przebranie na halloween? – Człowiek
Jedno mnie zastanawia –  Czy oni wiedzą, że Halloween to święto szatana?
Halloween...i znowu się zacznie – do moich drzwi nie pukajcie...! Ja jestem Polakiem czekam na Wszystkich Świętych!
Halloween – Po naszemu.
Jeśli wierzysz w Boga – to nie obchodź Halloween. Albo jedź do USA...
Może zamiast,tego waszego Halloween, – to przeszlibyście się na cmentarz i odwiedzilibyście zmarłych ?
Dziękujemy Wam, Obrońcy Krzyża! – Dzięki Wam, moja klasa wygrała konkurs na Halloween'owy kostium! Jeszcze raz dziękujemy!
- Stachu masz juz strój na Halloween? – - Po co mi? Wystarczy że będę trzeźwy, a i tak mnie nikt nie pozna
And to push the stereotypes a little further…
One of my students decided to go trick-or-treating with her friends last year. I told them the Halloween trick-or-treating rules.
No costume, no candy.
No destructive tricks.
No trick-or-treating after 9 p.m.
Wear something reflective.
No paper treat bags.
 (I had an unfortunate incident as a child when the local pastor who gave out apples –and sometimes dimes- dropped an apple into my treat bag. The apple went all the way through the bag to my feet along with all my candy. The pastor said “Happy Halloween” and closed the door.)
OK, back to my student and her Halloween haul. She got some candy, one swipe with a broom, a few opportunities to do a trick, a few F**K OFFs and 50 zloty. Wow, 50 zloty!  At one house, a guy gave her a 50 and asked her to go and buy her a flaszka. Cool.
Pół litra... – albo psikus. ;D
Walentynki, halloween.. –  Niedługo będziemy piec indyka na święto dziękczynienia!
We can only hope ;)
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Polish Halloween

No time to write.
We’re getting ready for Polish Halloween.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pictures from Poland – Autumn 2012

Some pre-Halloween fun
Harvest festival displays
Should we be concerned that “Baba” is pulling the plow?
And I was so inspired by this display that I cook some zupa ogórkowa.
It was delicious, if I do say so myself.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Refresh my memory

I had the opportunity to go to my 20th high school class reunion. That’s right. I’ve been out of high school twenty years and thank goodness for that.
Quite a few of my friends in Poland wanted to know if the reunion was like in American movies. I have to say yes and no. I wasn’t nervous or anything like in the movies. There wasn’t anyone I was dying to see or anyone I wanted to prove something to like in the movies. I was most worried that I wouldn’t remember somebody’s name (it happened) or somebody at all (it happened too – I was an exceptionally unobservant teenager).
Misiu was happy to go with me. He was also happy about the $2.50 bottled beer. His one comment looking around the room was, “Jeezus. That’s what 38 can look like”. In the case of some of my classmates, 38 can look pretty darn good and in the case of some others….well, better not mention it.
We circulated around the room and basically had the same conversation with 75 different people (and they had the same with us).
Quite a few of my classmates already knew  that I live in Poland (thanks Facebook) so the next obvious question was “What’s it like there?” which is exactly what I would have asked in the same situation.
One of my former classmates, not wanting to admit he had no idea where Poland was asked, “Refresh my memory. Where is Poland again?” I really do not mind this kind of question. I don’t get all in an uproar that somebody doesn’t know where Poland is…but in this case I was surprised because the question-asker is in the military, in the air force I think he said, and is trying to get transferred to the base in Germany. Don’t they have classes in military history? I told him that if he gets transferred to Germany Poland will be his closest neighbor to the East.
The stereotype says that Americans are uninformed and/or uninterested in the world around them. I found that many people were uninformed but given the opportunity to ask, were very interested in Poland. It was I who had difficulty in answering the question. What is it like in Poland? Well, I had 75 tries to fine-tune my reply.
I started with some lame comment like - “The old things are really old and the new things are brand new. And uhh, we have Mcdonald’s.” How did I win awards for public speaking? Seriously.
I basically said that Poland is a normal country. We drive on the right. We have 4 seasons. The people are nice, etc. and then I mentioned that we have socialized health care.
Please join me at my HS Class of 1992 20th Reunion.
Chris (totally cool girl from high school who for some reason lives in Poland and is married to some hot Polish guy who thinks Heineken for 2 bucks 50 cents per bottle is cheap)
Classmates (from various walks of life, all cool, most educated, ok one missing 4 front teeth on the top and 2 on the bottom but the rest pretty normal American folks)
Chris: Yeah, Poland is pretty normal. We have socialized health care.
The room goes silent.
Classmate: So how’s that work?
Chris (enjoying all eyes on her):Well, you pay a tax and you can go to the doctor and you don’t pay out of pocket.
Jaws drop. Then a wave of questions. Chris answers them all easily because they are all just different versions of the same question…starting with…
Amazed classmate: Soooo, you or your kid gets sick, what do you do?
Chris: You go to the family doctor.
Another amazed classmate who had earlier admitted to not visiting the dentist in over 20 years: And do you have to pay?
Chris: No.
Classmate: What about after hours?
Chris: You go to the after hours doctor.
Classmate: Do you have to pay?
Chris: No.
Classmate: What about at night or on holidays?
Chris: You go to the ER.
Classmate: What about when you have a baby?
Chris: There’s no additional charge.
Classmate: What about a hip replacement or something like that?
Chris: It’s not a perfect system. You have to wait but it is theoretically possible to get it under NFZ.
Classmate: What if you lose your job?
Chris: You and your children keep your coverage (and around we go…)
Classmate: Wow. That must be nice not to have to worry about your kids going to the doctor.
Chris: It is.
Classmate: But it comes at a cost.
Chris: Yeah, in taxes.
Classmate: No, you have to live under the socialist regime.
Chris: Yes, yes, the socialist regime.
So greetings to you, my red comrades out there and enjoy your life under the socialist regime.