27 gru 2010

What I don’t like in Christmas

Let’s face it – Poles are not exactly Catholics (who is?). Yes, I know, you can hear everywhere that we are, you have the statistics, you see people going to the church. The truth is – in Poland the Catholic Church has the enormous influence on the government and the law. People are not used to protest against it so they have to live in the Northern Roman Empire. But it doesn’t mean they live according to the Decalogue, read the Bible, listen to bishops or even believe in the God the Father. Polish religiousness is more pagan style (but don’t say it loudly;) – Poles want saints, angels and Mary to care for them, pray not in order to be saved but rather happy now. (It’s a big topic and for sure I will come back to it. Today I wanted to comment on Christmas.) Thus Christmas is far more a family holiday than religious. It can be a wonderful time but unfortunately so many Poles force themselves to do things they don’t need or want.

Let’s have a look at the typical Polish family (I know, it doesn’t exist but I must generalize a bit). Who is responsible for Christmas? Of course – the Mother! Or a grandmother or a daughter but for sure WOMEN. They plan, cook, bake, clean, do shopping, pack gifts, wash, decorate, serve, wash the dishes... The list is long. Polish Christmas should be splendid: 12 dishes for Christmas Eve, other for the next day, preferably prepared at home not bought. Houses must shine, the more gifts we buy the better. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I support the idea of cleaning everything twice a year but I don’t like the social context.

Many responsibilities don’t mean women have a real power in the family. They were brought up to organize family holidays and serve everybody. Even in quite modern families which try to share equally duties between men and women Christmas or Easter cause problems. Women work very hard but are not respected for that. Because they feel overwhelmed and underestimated they become angry. So you have family discussions, grievance, blackmail... Men generally AVOID. During Christmas preparations they go out and disappear or do one thing with a lot of celebration (“dad is baking his special cake!”). Children don’t want to spend time with irritated mothers so nobody feels good at the table.

Matka-Polka is a term used to describe women who are very dedicated to the family and always put their individual benefits aside. Children and family life are the most important factors in their life. Sometimes they can be happy and fulfilled but in most cases after many years of serving husbands and children they are frustrated and often explode (“this year there will be no Christmas, you’re ungrateful!”, “Through all my life I have sacrificed everything for you!”). You can say – it’s their fault! They have educated husband and children badly. It’s not exactly true – this is how women have functioned in the culture for the last 1000 years. Finally in the XX century they started to really decide about themselves. So it requires more time to redefine family relations.

My point is that you don’t have to sacrifice anything or work until you faint to have a great time with your family. Everybody should be engaged in Christmas preparations and not just “help” (I hate this word) the mother. Food or decorations are far less important than the nice atmosphere. I wish you only Christmas like this:)

3 komentarze:

  1. Excellent comment, as always Paulina. However, as a man who always used to all the preparations in England except hoovering, I have found it disappointing to find myself increasingly moved out of the preparations for almost all the major meal occasions in Poland. Women themselves consider that this is their role and men such as myself actually find it difficult to have anything other than a helping position. I do think that there has to be one chief to co-ordinate and control everything, particularly in meal preparation, but also to some extent for other things. Think of this as being like having a head chef in a good restaurant with other staff supporting: the 'mother' role being the vitally important leader with others fairly described as helpers. (I personally dislike the assumption by many women that they have a subordinate role if they are 'just' ,as I have often heard it described, a mother and wife.)

    My personal advice to the mother is, if her husband and/or children (and Bacia) don't do everything exactly they way she wants it done, don't tell them that they are useless and incompetent and that it is better if she does it herself. If the rest of the family are going to be criticised for doing something, why do it? If Mum thinks she can do it best, let her. We are very willing to help (and in my case lead), but if all we get is grief, its better to keep out of the way.

    Having said all that, we all got along exceptionally well with this Christmas Eve's preparations - the Chef de Maison calmly arranging the work of her supporting staff. There were a few minor tantrums, but we all understand it is a nerve-racking time for the boss and, to be honest, having Babcia as a helper could try the patience of a saint.

  2. Thanks for that, I can only add that I agree:)

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