By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
So many of our traditional holiday activities have been cancelled. Whether it is a large family dinner, a neighborhood gathering, baking cookies with a grandparent or a large church service, these and many other things that mean the holidays to you won’t be happening in this strangest of years. (However, Fantasy Lights is setting records for attendance!)
I get it. We won’t be enjoying our “Cousins’ Christmas” or Candle-lit Christmas Eve Service either. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t adapt or switch up how we celebrate.
I asked a couple of employees to share how they are changing up their holiday traditions this year.
Dawn Thomas of PPW is Jewish and just finished celebrating the seven nights of Hanukkah:
Typically, Hanukkah would be spent getting together with friends and enjoying the “festival of lights” with loved ones. This year, it’s a little different. Get togethers will be replaced with facetiming and Zoom calls.
In our house, it’s additionally bittersweet because it’s our son’s last holiday at home before he goes to college. The flip side to all of this is that we will have more time to spend together in our house baking, hanging out, and celebrating the holidays in a meaningful way. It may be different this year, but it will still be fun.
Paulina Kura in Human Services celebrates Christmas with traditions she brought from Poland:
Polish Christmas Traditions:
- Christmas Eve Supper, known as Wigilia, is one of the most longstanding and widely cherished of Polish rituals. 12 traditional meatless dishes are served during dinner which starts with the appearance of the first star. The number 12 is a symbol of wealth, the 12 Apostles and a representation of the 12 months of the year. During the meal, all of the guests should taste a bit of everything. There’s an extra place at the table set symbolically for a traveler or a homeless person. As a result of COVID, this year it will be just the four of us for Christmas Eve dinner, but we will still have twelve dishes!
- Christmas carols are serious and religious in character, yet it is customary to sing them after dinner. This year my son, Daniel, learned how to play Polish carols on the piano and he will perform an online piano recital for our family in Poland.
- Baking gingerbread cookies in Poland is a tradition several hundred years old. They must be made a good couple of weeks in advance to maturate and gain that special gingerbread taste. My daughter, Emily, baked and decorated gingerbread cookies on December 5th and will mail them to her friends.
- Poles open their gifts and then head out for the traditional Pasterka, or Midnight Mass. This year we will watch a virtual Christmas Eve Mass. During COVID, we have actually discovered virtual Masses being live streamed from different parts of Poland as well as Rome which has never been available before.
Even though this year’s holiday will be much different than traditional large Polish gatherings we still feel blessed to have each other and to be able to video chat with our family in Poland. We want to keep our loved ones safe!
My thanks to Dawn and Paulina for sharing their holiday traditions with us. Wow – those cookies are amazing! Way to go Emily!
Those of you who have visited the County-City Building in years past may remember the huge blue and silver Christmas tree we put up in the lobby of the first floor. Well, since very few people are coming in the building these days, we decided to dial it back a bit and put up a much smaller and simpler tree in the 2nd floor lobby.
My granddaughters, Blair and Lucy, stopped by to help light the tree.
Despite the weight of the pandemic and the temptation to dwell on what we’ve lost, seeing Christmas through the eyes of children is a beautiful antidote.
Thank you for the myriad of ways you have cared for our residents – and each other – in this extraordinary year. I hope in the days ahead you can safely spend time with those you love and enjoy some down time.
I can’t wait to put this year behind us, but I hope someday you will look back on 2020 with pride and the satisfaction of knowing we rose to the occasion when our community needed us.
Thanks for reading,
First published on the Pierce County website.