by Yvona Fast
My Mom grew up in a secular home during the 1930s. She had little concept of special holidays or religious celebrations of nay type.
When she was four, walking to the market with her nanny on a cold December day, they stopped at her fiancée’s home, where she was mesmerized by the sight and scent of her first Christmas tree. She writes in her memoir: “In the corner of the living room was a large Christmas tree with its full décor… I was awestruck at the sight. To have such a thing in one’s home, that must be so wonderful. I told myself then that, when I grew up, I would try to have such a wonder too!” (Good in the Midst of Evil, Rise, 2022).
She recalls making straw ornaments, paper chains and Christmas angels with Eva and her friends while masquerading as a Roman Catholic girl in a small village in the Polish country a few years later.
Her dream came to be. Each year, we go into the forest that surrounds our home in the Adirondack mountains, cut down a tree, bring it in and decorate it. Electric lights have replaced the candles that probably lit that spruce in 1935. Silver and gold garlands replace homemade paper ones. We have all types of ornaments, including Polish ones made from straw and ornaments given by friends in past years that we cherish.
In her sixties, Mom also began celebrating the Polish Wigilia (Christmas Vigil) festive, meatless dinner. We gather with good friends each year, exchange small mementos, and feast on the traditional dishes of herring, fish, clear beet consommé borscht, sauerkraut, root vegetable salad, and poppyseed cake for dessert.
Yvona Fast’s poems have been published in numerous magazines and several anthologies. She’s the author of Loon Summer: Poems and Photos (Atmosphere press, 2022), 3 poetry chapbooks (Different, 2017 Foothills; Adirondack Blue Seasons, 2018 CWP); and Adirondack Seasons Haiku (Local Gems Poetry Press, 2020), several nonfiction books, and numerous magazine and newspaper articles. For more, see http://www.yvonafast.com.