Maternal-Side Christmas: Christmas Eve

My maternal grandparents (Bruno and Viola (Biliunas) Markoski) lived on the other side of the state, so I don’t think I ever saw them at Christmas time. However, my mom carried on the Polish tradition of pierogies on Christmas Eve.

Being good Catholics, we were not to eat meat on Christmas Eve, so the Polish often made pierogies for dinner. Folks would later ask me, “Were they stuffed with potatoes?” I’d never heard of such a thing! My mom’s family made their pierogies stuffed with farmer’s cheese (which is kind of like ricotta) or kapusta (a sauerkraut mixture). (Personally, I prefer the cheese-stuffed pierogies slathered with melted butter spooned over them!)

Cheese pierogies on the top, kapusta on the bottom! Author’s collection.

Both my sisters have made pierogies, as well as a few of my first cousins on that side of the family (as reported on Facebook). Me? I do have my mom’s recipe, but I’ve never made them. Maybe someday! For now, I’m enjoying everyone else’s!

My side of the family continues this cooking tradition, as well as opening presents on Christmas Eve. It all started with our opening the gifts from our parents on Christmas Eve (which included the obligatory matching jammies that we’d put on that night), then Santa gifts on Christmas Day. As we got older, the Santa gifts faded away, and we were just left with Christmas Eve. Usually, we had the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing classics in the background as each of us took turns opening our gifts. When my dad was alive, and if we were really lucky, he’d play some Christmas songs on the cornet. He had a really awesome tone! (And yes, I would say he inherited his musicality from his ancestors!)

We continue these traditions to this day on the years we have Christmas with my side of the family. For my own family (husband and kids), we have our own presents on Christmas morning as well as a yummy Christmas dinner on a table with Great-grandmother Bertha’s tablecloth and my aunt Cheryl’s silverware set that Great-grandmother Eva gave her.