Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Polish wedding

Yesterday we returned home from a week long holiday in the country I was born, Poland.

Whilst there we ate, we visited beautiful Krakow, we ate loads of Polish delicacies, we visited my relatives and did I mention we ate a lot? The Polish clearly think that I do not feed my husband or perhaps that there is a food shortage in Italy because it seemed we were eating full hot meals every half hour.

On Saturday we attended my cousin's wedding. When we got the invitation in the mail some months ago, I thought they had either made a mistake or were having a very short wedding. It read that the wedding started at 4pm and ended at 6. I didn't realise that 6 meant 6AM! As I rsvp'd yes, I wasn't sure whether my body would hold up all night!

The wedding was held in a town called Wadowice which is famous as the late Pope John Paul II was born there. I was surprised to find out that my dad was confirmed in the town church by Pope John Paul when he was a bishop. Apparently one day the late Pope said that his favourite Polish cake kremowka was sold in one of the local cafe's. So now, every single bakery in Wadowice sells the famous cake which consists of vanilla custard filling in between pastry. The Pope was clearly onto a good thing there!

The wedding started with the groom's family and friends going to the groom's family home where he would be blessed by his parents in front of us all. While the blessing was happening, a large ochestra played Polish music and hymns. Then all of us, including the orchestra, drove to the bride's house and another blessing with her parents was made and the groom went into the home to find his bride.

Then we all got in our cars to drive to the church. However we were stopped by a woman posing as a gypsy who 'demanded' a bottle of vodka or she would not let the cars pass on her road. This was a very old tradition and was very funny to watch. She also read out some poems and encouraged them to have children.

After the church ceremony, coins were thrown at the bride and groom. They had to pick them up to ensure thier financial success in their new future together. We all lined up to congratulate the new couple and we had to present the bride with a bouquet of flowers. I wondered what the bride would do with the 140 bouquets of flowers but she later told me that they give half of them to the church and half go to the local cemeteries. For me the wedding ceremony was extra special as I was asked to be a witness.

We got to the hall and after we all toasted the couple, the bride smashed two wedding glasses. The the groom had to sweep them up. I didn't catch the meaning of this tradition, but hey if she can start training him this early to clean the house, it can only be a good thing.

Then the festivities really started. The next 12 hours were pretty much non-stop eating and dancing. The orchestra would play five songs, then we would all eat a full hot meal with a lot of shots of vodka. Then we'd get up and dance, then eat another hot meal. Dance, eat, vodka, dance eat, vodka....repeat about 20 times. I don't like dancing but nobody listened to my pleas and I danced with nearly every man in the room.

We were the first couple to leave at 4am (I knew I wouldn't make it until 6!). But in that time, I counted that we had at least ten full meals. I was soon regretting wearing a tight black dress. I should have picked a tent if I knew that my poor stomach was about to go into defense mode. And don't even think I could say no! As soon as I said those words that every Polish person thinks are a sin "I'm full and can't eat another thing" the whole table basically starts spoon-feeding you and looking at you with offended eyes. So you eat again. And drink more vodka.

Because I was so pre-occupied with eating everything, I forgot to take more photos of the food. But I got this one which was a traditional Polish entree of cold jelly with chicken and vegetables. Sounds gross, but really good.

My Australian husband was a hit with everyone and after all those vodka's nobody seemed to notice that he didn't talk Polish and they didn't talk English. I guess vodka is the universal language. This isn't the best picture but here is my uncle with a basket full of vodka. His main job that night was to walk around with the basket and make sure there were full bottles of vodka on each table. Because you know what would happen otherwise...a riot would start. And those are never good at a wedding.

When we were leaving, the bride and groom handed us two vodka bottles (I presume it was for the drive home in case we got thirsty), four big slabs of cake (in case we were still hungry) and a bottle of wine. My aunty quickly came and gave me a tin of hand picked dried mushrooms from their forest on their property. I am yet to meet a more hospitable race of people than the Polish.

One of the reasons I love living in Italy is that I'm much closer to my family and it doesn't cost the earth to visit them like it does from Australia. But, as with every trip I make to Poland, I am always left with a feeling of sorrow when I am leaving. I feel sad at leaving my family whom I share a blood connection with but not a real relationship with because of the distance between us. I emigrated from Poland to Australia when I was five years old and consider myself an Australian at heart although I still cook Polish food three times a week and speak the language fluently. I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been had I stayed in Poland. One thing is for sure, I would be a lot fatter.


erin :: the olive notes said...

ok, this has to be one of the most fun wedding traditions ever. What a great's seriously so foreign to me and very storybook-like. Sounds like you had a great time...even though I LOVE to dance, and can pass hours in a snap at weddings, I dont' think I could've made it to 6am either ;)

Anonymous said...

Mons - who would have thought the Polish invented the Vanilla Slice ;-))

Great post. Hope you are well.

Leanne in Italy said...

Such a long and eventful wedding! I love that someone dresses as a gypsy and asks for a drink before letting the newly weds pass. Would have been fun to be there!

Anonymous said...

wow all that eating and drinking and dancing.

i don't know how you did it? i was in Arizona visiting family this past week and all my grandmother does is cook and feed people.

so my husband and i were suffering from engorged stomachs as well :-(

Welsh Girl said...

There is such a great sense of family in that post. I think of all the weddings I have been to in England where the relatives talk stiltedly to each other, or refuse to acknowledge each other at all and realise that they just needed to be a little more polish - oh and to have some vodka!