Oh, I have so much to talk about tonight... where to begin.
We have unfortunately met three bad santa's when out with the kids. The first was when the kids were quite young, I think nearly two and nearly five, and we were peacefully painting some mugs with glaze for the grandparents when in walks the santa - I cannot put him in upper case here, I just can't - who has been hired by the local buisnesses. He's hammered. At that kind of loose and loud stage. HO HO HO ! MEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYCHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS My kids immediately tried to become an integral part of my legs, and I staggered from the store like a penguin, comforting them that all is well. Then I have to explain that that wasn't really SANTA just someone dressed up as santa, and that he was drunk.
What's drunk Mommy?
It was not a short conversation.
The next nasty Santa... we're in Miami and a homeless guy has been hired as santa. Nice idea, he has bathed recently, but when we saw him he was dressed in the Santa hat and jacket, but had not finished yet, and was still wearing army fatigues, you know those two or three toned jobs for camoflauge....? That was a bit of a swallow, but he is also having an altercation with a number of his buddies that displayed a rich command of some of the pithier elements of the english language.....his buddies were trying to point out these two small children trotting by to him, but it took a while to sink in. The kids looked up at us questioningly, "It is not the real santa..."
"just a guy dressed up for christmas." They finished.
The last and scariest, we were riding the subway in Toronto and on gets a very buff guy, wearing nothing but boxers and a santa hat, talking to everyone in a kind of in your face way. Then well he gets down on the floor and starts doing push-ups while growling at all the women in the car. I am not sure what he had shot into his veins, but we got off. Psychotic half-nakes santas growling at folks.... No thanks.
The kids looked up at me.... "We know."
By the same token we also had Santa come and visit us unexpectedly in a Kayak! Christmas day around 9 am, we hear a knock on the hull and there is Santa with gifts for the girls. Also in Miami. That was amazing. The kids didn't say anything at all.
My eldest daughter lost her eleventh tooth yesterday. Hasn't been put out for the tooth fairy yet. I think she is worried she will get Polish Zloty instead of a Euro, and she knows the relative usefulness of each, and I am pretty sure she is aware that the exchange rate is not favourable. Like any good trader, I believe that she is planning to trade when the market is more favorable. Budding little economist.
Went skating today, to the immense excitement of everyone but the two year old who was completely horrified by the idea, so that my sister never even approached the ice, and when she tried to put on her skates, silent tears would start to roll down his cheeks. The older nephew though was a complete trooper.... he fell down billions of times and got up cheerfully over and over and over. That said, he was really good. It was his very first time on skates, and they were single blades, and he barely wobbled. He needed one hand held all the time but did amazingly well. We did a lap of this IMMENSE speed skating rink though and by the time we were half way home he wasn't focussing, and was falling about every 4 steps. He weighs a solid 50+ pounds. I got my exercise. He did so well.
The girls had last skated 4 years ago and the elder girl, now 10, had been able to move across the ice, so she got on first, and I showed her a tiny bit, she got her legs and started moving around. Fell 5 times, and did well. She also got ENORMOUS blisters on her feet that she toughed out because she wanted to skate so badly, and she was building up some reputable speed by the end. She said herself it wasn't beautiful, but she was doing it.
The littler girl had managed to stand on skates and take a few halting steps before we left, and so need a little more help, but she also did amazingly. We did half a lap holding hands....Man those rinks are VAST. Larger than a track. There was a hockey rink in the middle and it only took up 1/3 of the space. Anyway, after the first half, she let go of my hand and continued, then she just kept going on her own for another entire lap and a half. Good gracious. One of the older guys who worked there tried to show her some tricks, but her Polish is, shall we say, extremely limited. Caught up with her at the second half of her third lap and she was solid. Not much one footed glide, but definately making her way around. This was with almost no help from me, because I had to help my four year old nephew so much. She did amazingly well.
We did do the caga tio, (see previous post), but decided to make it more PC/humane/ peaceful. So instead of beating the living shit out of a log with a face on it and demanding gifts, we decided instead to make it a bed, sing jingle bells, rather than the rather rude, threatening and demanding song that is the original, and tap it gently with magic wands. The eldest made the bed, gathered and decorated the sticks, and generally organized things. My younger daughter showed it off and explained, the four year old nephew gleefully joined in with the song and tapping, knowing there was a gift at the end, and the two year old was simply baffled. It was nice, if a little strange. The Catalan aspect.
Dinner was Polish style... baby jesus and a cross on the table, a prayer before we start, then they have a lovely tradition, which I think I will adopt permanently. Everyone is given a largish piece of host, the stuff you get at communion. Every person goes up to every other person and makes a wish for them, and they respond in kind, then you each break off a tiny piece of the others host and eat it before moving on to the next person you are wishing well of. It was quite lovely.
Then the dinner. No meat on Christmas Eve Day at all here, although meat can be used in soup stock... fish is fine though. Traditionally 12 courses. We opened with borst...don't think of any you've ever had, I had died and gone to heaven. Not thick, a broth, with little, I don't know the polish name, but they were mushroom raviolis in them. Then, salad tartar...eggs, very finely chopped pickles and pickled mushrooms. There was also either cream or mayo in there. Sounds weird, but it was sooo good. Eat it with bread. Always. Then we had, again I don't know the name, but it was a pickled herring wrapped around a pickle and topped with raw onion and a cream type sauce. Again sounds a little strange but it was very very good. At this point my eldest daughter realised that we didn't have the plate out for the visitor that might show up that we had 4 years ago when we last used Polish traditions !?! How does she DO that? So we put it out, and then after the herring dish, we look up and there is a strange cat in the window. My sister's family regularily feed a stray cat, but this was a new one. He got a serving of the herring dish which he shared with the regular cat. This was very good luck.
Then came the Pierogies. hand made, stuffed with potatoe and onion with white cheese, which is a Polish cheese particular to this dish and then fried in GOBS of butter. I LOVE pierogies. Ate WAY too many.
Next was a dish of cabbage, cut minutely fine and cooked with mushrooms and split yellow peas. Thick, not quite like mashed potatoes. Everyone kept going back with a spoon to the kitchen to mouth a little more in once a tiny space cleared. Heavenly. Again sounds a little weird, but Oh so good.
Then we had a drink make up of plums and prunes and apples stewed with cloves. Tasted like interesting cider and is to aid in the digestion of all this.
Finally we had a poppy seed cake, a rolled job a bit like a jelly roll in layout, but infinately better in execution. That wasn't 12 courses, but my brother in law was doing it all single handed and it was a ton of delicious food. Breakfast is going to be some yummy tomorrow. Traditionally the Polish would open presents after all this, and then go to midnight mass. We skipped those two steps and will do the pressies tomorrow morning. The Poles also normally do not drink any alcohol at this meal, indeed all day, although there was wine at the table. To make up for it, Vodka shots are expected at breakfast tomorrow, and will continue all day. Though I think we wimpy Canadians will not be up the Poles. Not a good day to be on the road I imagine.
My brother in law put it beautifully though when we were sitting around after putting the kids to bed. We were talking about all the different traditions that different cultures have.. he said, " Isn't it wonderful how all these different people have their own ways of being together."
Hit it right on the head.
Had chocolate in bed at 1 am tonight.
It is now 2:18, Merry Christmas.