Recently, I had the opportunity to return to America. Mainly I needed to return for my brother's wedding and I did not necessarily want to leave Poland, but the circumstances determined my actions and I had little choice in the matter. Although, I may joke about not wanting to return, I must first say that I was very lucky to even have the means to go back because I understand that many people would not have the option to do this, and I must count myself as fortunate that I was able to return. So, I was lucky that I could afford the plane tickets all the way from Poland to Florida. The journey to Florida was an adventure in itself. I had to spend a full night at the Copenhagen airport like a bum, and of course when I finally reached America I was very tired. I expected to be tired, but I was not prepared for my experience in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
It was strange going back to America. Perhaps it is because I am not from Florida and it was my first time there. However, I think there is more to my experience than this. Firstly, it was strange to understand everyone all the time. My Polish is o.k. and I can generally get around and survive, but I certainly don't understand everything. So, going back to a place where I could understand every word of every conversation around me was a strange experience. In my first few hours back in the States I found myself listening to conversations around me, not because I wanted to but mainly because some part of me was pulled to the fact that i could understand everything. Honestly though, it kind of became boring. I had to go to some stores and purchase things, mainly medicine because I was sick. At these strores I found it uninteresting when I had to talk with the cashiers, it was mundane. I believe this is because in Poland there is excitement at every turn. Even while buying bread I can hear a word, phrase, or expression that is new to me. Where as in America this was not the case and this was kind of disappointing for me.
Other than the conversations there were some other thigns I noticed. First of all the roads and infrastructure in America are different. Coming from the Polish context to the American style it was certainly strange. At the airport I noticed on-going construction and the equipment and style of construction was completely different than in Poland. I think in Poland more work is done by hand, but in America there are more machines and machine-work. I even noticed some containers that were different. My mother purchased a gallon of orange juice for the place we were staying. I went to pour a cup from this gallon, and I was shocked at how big it looked. One gallon is about 3.75 liters, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw this huge container of orange juice. I had forgotten about gallons until that point and it was weird to see such a large container.
After a while I did feel more at home in America. However, my first few days back were a strange time. It could be I was jet-lagged. Maybe it was because Poland is starting to feel like a second home. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. Either way I enjoyed my brother's wedding and Fllorida quite a lot. However, I am also very happy to be back in Poland as well.
I was very happy on a recent Friday because I had the opportunity to be in a country that actually celebrates Women's Day. Now, you may be thinking that this day is international in name and this means that every country should be able to celebrate. However, this is certainly not the case. Today, I am hoping to write about the lack of Women's Day in America and my observations from Poland on this day.
America has Women's day on the calendar, but that is basically it. The most a woman could expect on this day would be a remark from her husband or son. I believe that most workplaces would discourage any sort of celebrating of this day. This is because in America workplaces generally cannot celebrate anything that separates the workers. So, it is usually discouraged to celebrate any sort of religious holiday or gender-specific holiday. So, unfortunately for the American women, this means that they generally only receive an 'oh wow, it's Women's Day, Happy Women's Day' type of comment from their husbands, sons, or close male relatives.
I am happy to report that I saw the exact opposite of this type of behavior in Poland. Women's Day here seemed like a happy day and I was happy to celebrate. I celebrated by buying some tulips for me female co-worker and for my female students. I also talked about this day quite a lot with my students and I am happy that it still exists today. Unfortunately, it may have communist origins but I believe that it is a rather nice holiday today. I did not buy any pantyhose or carnations, but I certainly enjoyed the atmosphere and celebration of this holiday. When I return to America I will try my best to get more and more Americans to start celebrating this holiday.
Men have beards, or at least most men have facial hair. Some men have facial hair that lends it self to thick and luscious beards. Other men are what we call 'baby-faced', meaning that they cannot grow a beard and they have very limited, if any, facial hair. This is in large part due to genetics and one is not better than the other. Of course, if you want to grow a beard, then you do need to have some facial hair to make it work. Otherwise your attempt at growing a beard will look sad and pathetic. My own facial hair grooming habits have changed a lot since I needed to start shaving. Of course, I can't help but see what other men do with their own facial hair and today I am hoping to shed some light on what I have observed about Polish men's grooming habits.
First, I would like to say that in general Poles, and Europeans in general, are usually more put-together when they go out in public compared to Americans. In America it is quite common to see someone who looked like they just got out of bed. Perhaps they could be wearing flip-flops and something that looks like pajama bottoms. It is a bit of a grisly sight and I am not a fan. However, this is the way many Americans choose to go out in public. I believe that this is not common in Poland, as I have never seen it in all my times here. So, that is sort of the base that we are working with here; Americans can be a little bit sloppy when going out in public, and most Poles seem to be fairly well-dressed and put together.
It is my belief that these general better appearances while out in public have a direct influence on the way Polish men choose to groom their facial hair. Thus far my observations have been this: If a Polish man chooses to shave, he keeps his face clean and tidy and does not allow too much 'sloppy growth'. Also, if a Polish man chooses to grow a beard this beard is generally well kept, neat, proper, and well-maintained. I will say that the Polish beards I have seen have been very tidy, and none have been very long. Sometimes in America you will see men with what we call 'soup-catcher' beards. These beards are long and can extend well into a man's chest level. We call them soup-catchers because it is generally true that when these gentlemen try and eat soup some of the soup will end up in their beards. However, in the Polish case I have not seen these and have seen only clean-shaven or well-bearded Polish men.
It is also my observation that there is no real in between allowed amongst these two styles of facial hair. This meaning that I have not seen many Polish men with stubble. Stubble is when facial hair kind of grows out longer than clean-shaven but shorter than a full beard length. Very rarely do I see a Polish man with stubble. This could be because of the influence of looking put-together while going about in public. It is my belief that this is the case. I generally try and keep my face clean-shaven. I have tried to grow a beard in the past, but it was too itchy, scratchy, and irritating, so I did not last that long with a beard, or my attempt at one. So, no beards for me, but sometimes I am lazy or don't have a lot of time to shave, and during these times is when I feel the difference between Polish and American facial-hair grooming habits. I certainly notice that I am the only person with stubble, and I feel slightly out of place. However, I am certainly not complaining as I like the challenge of trying to look more well-groomed and clean-shaven. So, there you have it, if you see me with stubble on my face don't blame me. Blame my American up-bringing and my lack of time, and I suppose from time to time yes, you could blame me and my laziness, but only sometimes!
I had the opportunity over winter break to travel to the lovely city of Toruń. It is not so far away from Lębork and I visited this lovely city for two days and one night. Travelling to Toruń was very easy and I recommend that first-time visitors to the city go from the train station to the riverfront opposite the city. Here you can see a lovely city panorama and it's wonderful architecture and old medieval fortifications. It is also not a long walk from the train station to the old town so don't worry about taking a bus, because walking across the Piłsudski bridge is another opportunity to see more of the city as you approach it.
The first thing I did in Toruń was check into my hostel, which was surprisingly right on the old town square. The price was good, so I did not expect the hostel to be so centrally located. Then I went to the leaning tower near the riverfront. I love old battlements and fortifications so I knew I had to see this old medieval guard tower. After this I caught the last show at the planetarium. Now, the area around the planetarium was quite interesting for me. All within a stone's throw of each other were these buildings: A lovely church, the planetarium, a large and important building of Toruń university, and finally a jail that looked like a grim castle. I found this last buidling a little bit surprising because it seems odd to have a jail right next to a church. In theory an escapee from the jail could attend a lecture at the university, watch a show at the planetarium, go to church and pray, and be back in his jail-cell all before the guards noticed he was not there! At least that is what my imagination thought of when I saw all of these buildings so close together.
The old town of Toruń is a UNESCO protected site and I can see why. The architecture of the town is quite impressive and as one walks around this area it is quite possible to have a sense of awe for the grandeur of the old buildings. For dinner in Toruń I tried baked pierogi, which I had not heard of before. They were bigger and thicker than standard pieorgi. They were quite tasty, but I recommend eating them with some sort of sauce, because they can be a little dry. I particularly enjoyed them becasue they reminded me of a regional food from my own region: pasties. These are essentially flaky meat pies with potatoes, onions, ground beef, and sometimes rutabaga. After dinner I walked around to see more buildings and churches, had a beer at a local brewery and pub, and went to bed. I heard that Toruń is a student city, and I could feel this atmosphere while walking around that Friday night.
My second day in Toruń started off with storing my things at the train station so I did not have to walk around all day with my backpack. The highlights of this day were the museum of Mikołaj Kopernik or Nicolaus Copernicus as the English speakers call him. This was a great museum and I learned a lot about this revolutionary scientist. I even watched a film in '4-D', which was rather interesting. After a few hours at this museum it was off to the museum of living ginger-bread. Here I learned how 'pierniczki' or ginger-bread cookies were made in Toruń through the ages. I even had the opportunity to make my own. My ginger-bread cookie was not the most impressive, but it was fun to make nonetheless. After this it was dinner at a bar mleczny and then I went to the Old Town Hall to see their collection about Toruń. I learned that a Polish King died in Toruń in the 1500's, which is something I had not known before. I then relaxed at the Vistula riverfront and took a train out of Toruń. I had some confusion in Gdynia while transferring to an SKM train there. Due to this confusion I ended up staying the whole night at the Gdynia train station. It was not the best experience, but I was in such high-spiritis from my lovely time in Toruń that I did not mind too much.
I have met some people who say that Toruń is a better city than Kraków as far as visiting and seeing Polish culture. I agree that Toruń is a lovely city, but comparing it to Kraków is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Both are old cities with impressive architecture but the feel of each city is quite unique and different. I cannot say that one is better than the other and I wholeheartedly recommend both to visitors travelling around Poland.
Languages are difficult. There are nuances that it seems only native speakers can learn. They seem to exist in every language and they are tremendously difficult to master. Of course, there are fundamental differences between every language. Some languages seem to lay fairly close to one another. For example, English has taken a lot of its structure and words from French. Due in large part to the Norman Invasion of the 11th century, and to other factors which are far too long to list here. Spanish is also similar to English, mainly because both languages have a lot of their roots in Latin. Yet, what about English and Polish? Are these languages similar? Today, we will talk about how an English-language minded American has struggled to learn Polish and the successes and failures he has had.
This English language minded American is me. What I mean when I say English language minded is that English is my first language. Meaning that when I think and when I try and orient myself to new things I do so from an English perspective. So, in my opinion is Polish similar to English? That is not a question that I can answer with a simple 'yes or no'. In some cases the two languages are deceptively similar. I say deceptively because sometimes Polish seems to have grabbed some English words, or rather English has adapted some Polish words (chicken or the egg argument, who knows really?) and this can be quite confusing. Confusing, there is a perfect example of what I mean. I remember once when I was in Polish class and I was trying to tell the teacher that I was confused and did not understand the concept. Now, I knew that sometimes English and Polish words are similar. For example, irritating in English is irytujący in Polish. So, knowing that sometimes English and Polish words are fairly similar I said to the teacher: 'Przepraszam pani profesor, ale jestem "skonfusowany" '. At this my teacher laughed and laughed. She told me that she know what I was trying to say, but that this word did not exist in Polish. So, in this sense trying to learn Polish from an English perspective gives you a lot of false friends.
Yet, on the other side of this argument Polish and English are in no way similar. Many are the times when I struggle with Polish letters and sounds. Ż, Z, and Z', are a perfect example. I was even more disappointed when I was told that although I could roll my r's, my rolled r's are still not the same as a native Polish speaker's r's because my tongue is in a different location. English can be difficult for Polish learners as well. The english letter combination of 'th' as in 'that is the thousandth tenth of the throne' can be quite difficult for Polish learners.
Mistakes come naturally in any situation you are trying to speak in a foreign language. Mistakes are a tricky business with learners of foreign languages, because you naturally want to point them out, but do it too much, and you discourage someone from ever trying to speak again because they start to think that there is no possible way for them to speak without making mistakes. Yet, on the other hand if you don't correct them from the beginning you are really only doing a detriment to their future selves because as their language improves they will then have to back-track and correct the mistakes that they had been making for a long time. So, it essentially breaks down into what you want to do with the language you are trying to learn. Are you trying to master it? Are you trying to learn enough to order a drink while on vacation? In my own Polish learning pursuit I am generally merciless to myself. I don't mind making mistakes, but I don't care to make the same mistake twice. This is why some people have described me as a real stickler on grammar. Polish grammar to me is like a puzzle of sort, or a kind of game. Each aspect of a language as a purpose or meaning, but the way each language communicates this differs. For example, in English we tend to use prepositions after our verb of movement 'go'. I can go into, go towards, go through, go around, go out, go in, go back, go forward, go sideways, go up, or even go down, amongst many other iterations and examples that I either don't know or have the time to tell here. Where as Polish as some variant of this as well, but it also uses prefixes with the verb. Pójść, dojść, wyjść, wejść, przejść, and many others which really I dont' know. Hence the game of figuring out a foreign language, you need to simply look for what the aspect of a language is trying to communicate. In the example above, each language is trying to tell us where we are going. English uses prepositions after the verb, and Polish uses prefixes attached to a verb. Either way the same meaning is expressed, but a different path is taken to reach this expression. Personally I find grammar to be frustratingly fascinating, boring, amazing, and sometimes superfluous all at the same time. Either way it is something that you cannot do without if you ever truly want to master a foreign language.
So, that is my take on learning Polish. It has been difficult and rewarding. God knows I still make mistakes. I don't mind making them because I can learn from them. I do try and not make the same mistake twice though. Do this enough times and you will find that you don't want to continue learning, and then you might just give up, and giving up is never a good option for learning a language.
I already wrote on some small differences between Poland and America once on this blog before. Now, I am not sure if this topic was popular with our loyal readers, but there is another small thing that I noticed. It is another thing that I certainly did not think about nor expect to be different. Today, this small thing will be light switches, more importantly light switches for bathrooms in Poland.
When going to the bathroom, it is very important that you are able to see. This seems so obvious that it does not need to be said. However, there is a small problem when it comes to this matter in Poland; the light switch. I have noticed that on nearly all of the non-public bathrooms that I have been in the light switch is outside of the bathroom. This meaning that when you go to the bathroom you need to first turn on the light, then enter the bathroom, then shut the door. This is a fine sequence of events and it works for everyone involved it seems. However, for me it is strange. The system I am used to or accustomed to is the light switch laying on the interior wall, inside the bathroom. This means that when you enter a bathroom, it is usually dark and you then find the light switch, turn it on, close the door, and then do your business as needed. In Poland I find that I many times enter into a bathroom first, only to realize that I forgot to turn on the blasted light because the light switch is on the wall outside of the bathroom.
Forgetting to turn on the bathroom light is very annoying for me, but I see greater potential here for mayhem. I have three siblings and when we were growing up we enjoyed to pick on each other and fight. Sometimes it was small things such as calling each other names, or making faces at each other. Other times it escalated to greater extremes. For example, once my brother and sister caught me, tied me to a chair, and left me in our upstairs for a good long while. This was not the best experience for me, but such is life with siblings when you are the youngest of four. My point is that people, children especially, must abuse the fact that the light switch is located on the wall outside of the bathroom in Poland. Surely, there must be moments where a brother goes to the toilet and his siblings sneak up and turn the lights off on him while he is on the toilet and in the bathroom. This seems like such an easy prank that it must be commonplace. I must ask around and see if this was or is the case for some people. However, I can say this for sure that if in America our light switches were outside of the bathroom, then I would have been going to the toilet in the dark quite frequently thanks to the antics of my siblings.
Learning how to swim is an important thing. You never know when you might end up in the water, struggling for survival. Swimming desperately so that you don't sink down below the waves to your cold grave. A bit of a morbid image, but it does get the point across that one should learn how to swim. In many countries it is common for young children to attend swimming lessons and learn this very important skill. At the local pool in Lębork there are swim lessons offered to children of various ages. One recent Saturday I went to the pool. (That's right, your poor English teacher has a life outside of teaching, strange as that may seem) I went to the pool in the mid-morning, I did not know that this was the typical time for children's swimming lessons. Thus, at the pool it was myself, some swim instructors, and many many children. This was not the best situation for my own personal swimming, but I was able to observe some interesting teaching methods.
The instructors at the swimming pool had a certain style of teaching that I rather liked. First of all, they were strict and they allowed no back-sass from the children. It seemed like none of the instructors really cared if the kids wanted to swim or not. When they said 'enter the water' the kids entered the water. If there were some kids who did not want to enter the water the instructors gave them the proper encouragement to get their little behinds in the water and stop complaining! This may seem rather harsh, but I think with kids and water you need to have a firm hand because it is natural to fear water and everyone needs to overcome this fear. It is better to do this when you are a child and not have to deal with it when you are an adult. So, the kids entered into the pool when they were told. However, once in the water I observed some funny instruction as well. The children had to swim laps and practice the different styles of strokes. For example the front crawl, the back stroke, the breast stroke, and so on. What was very funny to me was that the instructors provided encouragement from the pool deck, but they also had a long metal pole. With this pole they would encourage the kids to swim in a certain way. If, for example, a child's leg was not kicking properly, then the instructor would use the pole to help guide the leg into the proper position. I am sure this is very helpful, but I could not help but laugh at this because the poor kids seemed like cattle being poked and prodded into the proper position. I think it is a good idea because it helps the kids learn the proper technique. However, I do feel kind of bad for them as well. It is hard enough to swim, let alone swim in a large group of other children, and on top of this to also have some instructor jabbing you with a longe pole! This all just seems like too much. Still, I laughed at the poor children's' expense because the instructor jabbing them with the long metal pole made for a funny sight.
Now, you may think that I am being too brutal to these poor kids, but I had my own troubles when I was a young child learning to swim. First of all, we did not have a pool near us, so we had to learn how to swim in a lake. The lake water was not very clean, and later on we found out that this was because of an invasive plant that made the water stink quite a lot. We also had to learn how to dive into the water head-first. This was the hardest part of swim lessons for me. My instructor tried various techniques to try and get me to dive properly. This varied from having me try different positions to them using their hands to guide/throw/push me into the water. Being thrown in head-first and causing a great splash was the most humiliating part of the lessons for me. So, I can empathize with these poor kids who have to swim at Lębork. They get jabbed with a long metal pole, and I was thrown into the water. I guess swimming lessons can be hard no matter where you are in the world.
I have been running around Lębork here and there since my arrival here. I am not training for a marathon or anything like that, and I probably go for a run at least three times a week. I try and change my running route from time to time, so that I can see more of the town. This has been a good idea because I am able to see more and more of Lębork. I certainly have not lived here for a long time, but thanks to my runs I feel that I have gotten to know more of the town. Very rarely do I see other runners out on the streets while I am running. However, the few times that I do, I am always surprised. Mainly because I usually run at strange times of the day, and I am surprised to see other runners at these times, but also because of what the runners do when they see me.
Every runner with whom I have crossed paths as acknowledged me in some fashion. Sometimes it is a slight nod of the head. Other times it is a wave. On more rarer occasions I have received both a wave and a hello. Each time that a fellow runner acknowledges me, I find it rather nice and pleasant. I had no idea that there was this type of solidarity among runners in Poland. I like it, and I enjoy passing by other runners while I am running in Lębork. The slight acknowledgement that this community gives to one another is a small but meaningful gesture. It is as if they want to say: 'I see that you are out here, yes running sucks, but I recognize that you are here running with the rest of us'. At least that is how I interpret their small gestures
While I was in Warsaw working as an intern, I had a similar experience with runners there as well. I was just as surprised as I am in Lębork. Most of my surprise comes from the fact that I never experienced something like this while running in America. Most American runners keep their heads down and tend not to acknowledge other runners if they happen to meet them while running. Maybe this is because they are more competitive in nature and don't want to acknowledge someone who may be just as good a runner as themselves, if not better. I am not sure about the American running mind-set, America is after all a big and diverse country. However, I can say that I have been pleasantly surprised with the running culture here in Poland. I can definitively say that when I go out running I look forward to passing by other runners, because running can suck, but it is nice to acknowledge and be acknowledged by fellow runners.
I was lucky enough to meet with some fellow Americans over the Christmas holidays. They are working in Spain as teaching assistants, so we decided that we would see some of Europe together. We met in Prague the day after Christmas, went to Vienna, and flew to Gdańsk for New Year's Eve. I could of course talk about Prague and Vienna, but I would much rather talk about my favorite of those three cities: Gdańsk.
I am happy to say that the fellow Americans enjoyed Poland. It was their first time in Poland, so I was curious what they might think. Of course, if you read this blog frequently, you already know that I really like Poland. We flew into Gdańsk late in the night and took a taxi to our hostel. We started the next day with a climb to the top of the bell tower in St. Mary's Church. We enjoyed the view of the city from there. Next, we went to the Hala Targowa and shopped around. I made sure that they tried some sweets such as: Michałki, plums in chocolate, krówki, and szarlotka. They enjoyed them all, but I believe their favorites were the plums in chocolate. After this we tried to go to both the Museum of the Second World War and the European Center for Solidarity,co both were closed. We made due with walking around these areas and I told them as much of the history of Gdańsk as I could remember. It certainly would have been better if they had been able to see the museums, but what to do.
We started New Year's Eve night at a very nice brewery near St. Mary's Church. From there we went to the gate at the beginning of Długi Targ, because we wanted to see the concert there. There were many people and a few bazaar stalls as well. We wanted something to drink and so got some 'hot Christmas beer'. Turns out this was a mistake, because none of us really liked it and we had to force ourselves to drink it. We counted down to Midnight with everyone else and enjoyed the fireworks there. After the crowd dispersed from the concert area one of my colleagues forced us to go to a small bar/club. I did not want to pay the cover to get into the place, but my colleague insisted, so we went. I hope my colleague never reads this, but I did actually enjoy myself there. After the bar we went to bed and had sweet dreams of a rather good and memorable New Year's Eve.
The next day we walked to the Baltic Sea. There we had a late lunch at a fish restaurant and then we walked on the beach for a while. We stopped at a bar for one last drink and then I had to say goodbye to my travel companions. I took the train back to Lębork, and they had one more night in Gdańsk before they flew off to Helsinki. I believe they really enjoyed Poland and Gdańsk and I hope they tell more people how great Poland and the Pomorskie voivodeship really are.
For better or for worse, I was unable to go home for the Christmas break. In reality, this may have been for the best because I was able to spend both Christmas Eve (24th of December) and Christmas day (25th of December) with some very kind and gracious people. I was also able to see the customs and traditions that are typical of these days in Poland.
I generally believe that in our modern times the best part of Christmas is the fact that it is an opportunity for spending time with family and friends and appreciating all that we have. We try to do this in America, even though many times capitalism and commercialism get in the way of this. I was very happy to see that in Poland Christmas time is largely a time for being with friends and family. The tradition of opłatki (Christmas wafers) is a very nice piece of this sentiment, and I think it is a great way to appreciate what you have and also share your best wishes with those who are close to you. Most families don't have anything similar to this tradition in America, and I wish we did because it is a great way to tell those close to you that you care about them. In my family, we did always keep a spot open at our table, and when we asked our Grandma about this, she would often say that it was for a weary traveler who might happen to come by, or else that it was for Jesus himself. As a child, I never really understood this tradition, but I was happy to hear that many families in Poland also keep an open table-setting at their table for Christmas Eve dinner.
Besides the feelings and meanings of Christmas, there was, of course, new and different food to try! Barszcz or beetroot soup is without a doubt very good. Pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms are also delicious. The many styles and types of fish that different families eat was also interesting. Greek-style fish seemed to be the most common and was what I ate on Christmas Eve. In America, we generally eat meat on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but this, of course, varies greatly and depends on the individual families and their traditions. I will say that most families in America have their larger meal on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve and most times the main dish is either a large ham or a large turkey, but again this depends on the family. There are many dishes in America that are typical for Christmas dinner, but most families don't have the tradition of twelve dishes, as some families have in Poland. This sounds very tasty as the more dishes, the better, however, it seems like a lot of work for whoever has to cook and prepare the meal!
Of course, we can't talk about Christmas time without talking about Santa and Mikołaj! I was surprised that Santa comes after Christmas Eve dinner in Poland because in America he usually comes in the middle of the night on the 24th of December. I had different opinions about these different times, and I am still uncertain which time is best for Santa to come to the home. For example, in Poland, I do like that Santa comes right after dinner. However, this seems like a logistical problem for the parents because they must send the kids upstairs or outside or somewhere and then quickly have Santa appear. This leaves little time to have things fully prepared and ready to go it seems. On the other hand, in America Santa comes during the middle of the night. So, that the kids are all sleeping and parents have all night to place the presents under the Christmas Tree and get things arranged just right. However, a negative of this American way is that many times children don't sleep at all on Christmas Eve and also wake everyone up in the house very early. So, in America, parents have more time to get everything arranged and all the presents prepared, but then they usually have to wake up very early on Christmas day. In Poland, it seems to be the opposite; parents have less time to have Santa appear and get the presents prepared, but then they are able to sleep in on Christmas Day. I am not certain if I can say definitively that one system is better than the other. I can only say that they are different.
Regardless of when Santa appears the family with whom I spent Christmas Eve made sure that I had a good time. They were very welcoming and hospitable, but they declined to tell me that someone at their dinner would have to dress up as Santa. I tried my best to argue that I am not a good actor and that I could not fill the role of Santa, but they would not hear any of my complaints and forced me to dress up as Santa/Mikołaj! In all honesty, I was at first not very happy about this, but they were very nice and made sure that I looked the part of a real Mikołaj. After getting over my nervousness about having to be Santa, it was actually quite a lot of fun. I was able to hand out the presents to everyone, listen to carols, and even got some tasty cake as a reward for my 'service' of being Santa. It was my first time ever dressing up as Santa and I dare say that I might like to do it again.
So, I spent my Christmas Eve and Christmas day without my own family, but I still felt very welcome here in Poland. There are many good traditions surrounding these days that I was able to observe. I was slightly sad that I was not with my own family, but everyone here made sure that I had a good time and I thank everyone who was gracious enough to welcome me into their homes during this special time of the year.
Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan David was raised by his parents with his two sisters and brother.