Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Memories

As I stated in my last post, Christmas Eve has always been very special.  Perhaps it has been even more special than Christmas Day itself.

My dad and my Uncle Frank owned a very small grocery store in South River, New Jersey.  It went by the name of Frank and Al's Market.  It was so small that it had only two aisles.  But it was known throughout the surrounding communities for the Polish provisions and specialties that my dad and uncle carried.  At Christmas and Easter the store was crowded; but even more so at Christmas time.  My dad and uncle produced fresh Polish kielbasa throughout the year; but the holidays were even more special.  It was not uncommon for my dad and his brother to make between 1,000 - 2,000 pounds of the tasty sausage during Christmas time.  I remember spending time at the store, stocking shelves, only to see people come as far away as Virginia just for some of Frank and Al's fresh Polska kielbasa.  In addition to the kielbasa, there were Polish cakes, candies and other specialties, such as fresh herring in cream sauce that was always popular.  It was a busy but special time of the year.

The store closed early on Christmas Eve; and when I was very young, we would head over to my grandmother's house - Babcie's house for Christmas Eve dinner - Wigilia.   All my aunts, uncles and cousins would be there; and there would be the traditional dinner of fish, pierogies and other good foods.  The Wigilia was always meatless. They had their Christmas Tree on their front porch, which was enclosed and I always marveled at the hand blown glass ornaments that I was not allowed to touch!

After dinner wound down, my family would return back home to find that Santa had already been to our house!  There were presents under the tree; and I never did figure out how Santa got them into our house without the benefit of the traditional fireplace entry - we had steam heat!

Mass was either attended at Midnight or early on the morning of Christmas Day.  We attended an ethnic Polish parish, St Mary of Ostrobrama in South River.  In fact, that's where I spent my elementary school years, being tutored by Polish nuns.  The Masses at Christmas were so crowded that if you didn't get there early, it was standing room only.  There were even a few times that the Church was so crowded that a person or two would pass out from the heat generated by all the bodies.

Christmas Day itself was a bit anti-climactic.  My mom's sister, my Aunt Irene lived next door to us and we would alternate between our two houses each year for Christmas dinner.  The day itself was quiet with my sister and I playing with the things we got from Santa.  Occasionally, an aunt, uncle and cousins would come for a visit towards the evening.

We always had the following week off from school, like kids do now.  And we always looked forward to going back to find out what Santa had left at their houses.

Living in New Jersey, there weren't many white Christmases; but they all were special in their own way.

From the W2LJ household to yours, we extend our best and warmest wishes for a Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

Wesolych Swiat !!!!!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. I just had a trip to Krakow, Poland, which was frosted in snow, it was beautiful, and I ate all of the foods you mentioned with great gusto. Delicious, and none of them diet food. Merry Christmas!

  2. Paul Smith N0NBD9:37 PM

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and thanks for sharing a neet story. Have a good New Year de Paul