Solitude, was born on the island of Guadeloupe around 1772. She was conceived on a slave ship, when her mother, who was being transported from Africa, was raped by one of the sailors.
Solitude was called "La Mulâtresse" ('Female Mulatto') because of her mixed race origins. On birth she automatically became the property of her mother’s owner. Because she had pale skin and pale eyes, she was given domestic work rather than being forced to work in the fields.
After the abolition of slavery in the West Indies in 1794 she joined a Maroon community, La Goyave. When Napoleon decided to reinstate slavery in the French Colonies in 1802, the Guadeloupeans resisted, refusing to surrender their freedom, after eight years of living as free men and women. Following an attack on the community by Napoleon’s forces, Solitude lead a small group that escaped to the hills, to avoid capture. Despite being pregnant, Solitude joined forces with groups led by an officer, Joseph Ignace and Louis Delgres a free mulatto officer, to fight against the Napoleonic forces. The Resistant’s rallied to the cry of "Live Free or Die!".
Surrounded and outnumbered at Danglemont Plantation on 28th May 1802 the Resistants, in a final desperate last stand, allowed French troops enter their territory. Then they set alight their gunpowder stores. Approximately five hundred Resistants and four hundred French troops were killed.
Solitude survived the battle, but was captured and imprisoned. The French military brought Solitude and the other survivors before a military tribunal, which sentenced them all to death. Solitude’s execution was was temporarily delayed because of her pregnancy. she gave birth to her child, who became the legal property of her owner on the 28th November 1802. One day after delivering her baby, Solitude was executed. She was thirty years old.
Today, Solitude’s name adorns squares, avenues, a library, and a museum room in Guadeloupe. Solitude’s bravery and courage is remembered in songs, poems, and the musical Solitude la Marronne. In September 2020 a garden was inaugurated in Solitude’s name in the 17th arrondissement Paris. A statue will follow, which will make the statue the second to a black woman in Paris.
The first statue to a black woman being that of Josephine Baker who took French citizenship despite being American born. Her statue is a tribute to her work for the French Resistance during World War II and her human rights, civil liberties work.
#BlackHistoryMonth #BlackGirlMagic #Freedom
“Frenchmen! For more than thirty years in peace and war I have marched with you. I am marching still along the same road. Tonight I speak to you at your firesides, wherever you may be, or whatever your fortunes are. I repeat the prayer upon the louis d’ or, ‘Dieu protège la France.’ Here at home in England, under the fire of the Boche, we do not forget the ties and links that unite us to France.…Here in London, which Herr Hitler says he will reduce to ashes… our Air Force has more than held its own. We are waiting for the long-promised invasion. So are the fishes.”
— 21 October 1940, Broadcast to France.
Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) was a British social reformer, writer, statistician, and most famously, the founder of modern nursing.
Florence, the daughter of an affluent, upper-class English couple, was named after the city of her birth, Florence, in Italy. During her childhood, she travelled extensively. She grew into an attractive, slim, determined and opinionated woman. Florence was courted by a poet. After nine years, she finally rejected her suitor, deciding to dedicate her life to nursing. At this time, the nursing profession was considered a lowly profession, unsuited to educated and gentile ladies, however Florence was determined and would not be discouraged or diverted.
Her father provided her with an annual income of £500 per year, which was sufficient in those days to live comfortably. Florence undertook some medical training and then began to train other volunteer nurses. Shocked by the conditions faced by soldiers in the Crimean war, Florence arrived there in 1854 with a squad of thirty-eight nurses she had trained and fifteen catholic nuns. They found soldiers were dying more from infections like typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery, than from their battle wounds. Florence is credited with organising the first prefab hospital which was built in England and then shipped to the Dardanelles. Whilst caring for the sick and wounded soldiers, Florence became known as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ as she made tireless rounds of the wards late at night. In 1855 the Nightingale fund was established to train nurses. This enabled the Nightingale Training School to be established at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London. The first Nightingale trained nurses began work on the sixteenth May 1859. Florence’s book, Notes on Nursing, published in 1859 provided the foundation of the curriculum. Florence is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. In recognition of her pioneering work, the Nightingale pledge, a modified version of the Hippocratic oath is taken by new nurses. The Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. Her social reforms included improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws which were harsh for women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.
Nightingale was a prodigious and versatile writer. In her lifetime, much of her published work was concerned with expanding medical knowledge amongst the working classes. Many of her tracts were written in easy to understand English, so that they could easily be followed by those with poor literary skills. She was also a pioneer in data visulisation effectively using graphs to present statistical data. Much of her writing, including her extensive work on religion and mysticism, has only been published posthumously.
Author of Josephine, singer,dancer,soldier,spy
#nightingale #nursing #inspiration
The last German military communications decoded at Bletchley Park in World War Two have been revealed to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
In 1944, a German military radio network, codenamed BROWN, had extended across Europe sending reports about the development of experimental weapons. In May 1945 the base was making its last stand at Cuxhaven, a town on Germany’s North Sea Coast.
As the Allies entered the town and closed in on the radio operator’s position, Lieutenant Kunkel signed off to any colleagues who might still be listening.
His words - broadcasted at 07:35 on 7 May - would be the last message from the German military intercepted by codebreakers at Bletchley Park before the surrender.
"British troops entered Cuxhaven at 1400 on 6 May. From now on all radio traffic will cease - wishing you all the best. Closing down for ever - all the best - goodbye".
Bletchley Park's war-time work breaking enemy codes - most famously those made by the Enigma machine - was kept entirely secret, not just during the war, but for many years afterwards.
The cracking of the Enigma code is now often compared to a relay race. The first relay was carried out by the Polish Cipher Bureau who started the first ever code-breaking course. They recruited a timid mathematician Marian Rejewski, who became the first man ever to break the code. Material to his achievement was information obtained by French agent Captain Bertrand through espionage. The Cipher Bureau passed the secret of how to break the Enigma code to the British and French just before Poland was invaded in 1939. The Poles continued their code breaking work in difficult conditions in France until they were forced to flee from the Gestapo after the whole of France was occupied after the North Africa landings in 1942. Thereafter the bulk of the code-breaking work was continued at Bletchley Park in England and in the United States.
The intelligence produced by cracking the Enigma code has been credited with shortening the war by at least two years and saving many thousands of lives.
After Germany surrendered, Victory in Europe Day was declared on the Eighty of May and has been celebrated on that day ever since. Many European countries have a public holiday on the eighth of May. Germany made the day a public holiday for the first time in 2020.
Author of The Cypher Bureau
On 30th January 1933 President Paul von Hindenburg formally named Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. It was an appointment the President had initially refused to make as a result of concerns about Hitler’s brutal policies and Hitler’s association with the S.A. known as Brownshirts.
Hitler had enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity among the German population. Principally as a result of his extraordinary oratory skill but also as a result of the desperate economic situation in Germany, which had suffered rocking inflation after the First World War, and the propaganda skills of Joseph Goebbels.
Hitler was seen as a modern, dynamic leader who could offer solutions to the economic difficulties suffered in Germany.
In parliamentary elections held in 1932, the Nazi party -Nationalist Socialist Germany Workers Party- had won two hundred and thirty seats which was equivalent to 37.3 percent of the vote. This entitled them to have the Chancellor of Germany appointed from their ranks. The party’s choice was Hitler.
The Chancellor and President of Germany have a similar relationship to that of the Prime Minister and Queen of the United Kingdom. The Chancellor, like the Prime Minister holds the real power whilst the President , like the Queen is the head of state but with little real power. President Hindenburg refused to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.
The situation in Germany was unstable with a risk of civil war as escalating violence took place between radical wings of the political parties. Further elections were held in November 1932. The communist party gained seats and the Nazi party lost seats. Right wing conservatives were concerned about the communist party increasing their popularity in Germany. After complex negotiations ex-chancellor Franz von Papen convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. He assured Hindenburg that Hitler would be unable to implement his more brutal policies as Hitler’s powers would be curtailed with von Papen as vice-chancellor and other non-Nazi politicians holding important positions in the German government.
After Hitler’s appointment, he immediately set about achieving his vision of Germany becoming a powerful one party state.
Hitler asked Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag. Then the Enabling Act was passed which effectively gave Hitler power to pass laws by decree which could not be cancelled by the Reichstag.
He appointed Hermann Goering as head of the Gestapo or secret state police. The secret police force was expanded with recruitment only taken from Nazi party members.
In February 1933, freedom of the press was severely curtailed and on 27th February civil liberties in Germany were effectively suspended. Hitler had taken his first steps to realise his dream of a Reich which would last for one thousand years.
Author of The Cypher Bureau.
THE UNITED STATES WAR DEPARTMENT WASHINGTON DC
AFFIDAVIT OF VERONICA HOPE
I, Veronica Hope, former nurse in the Red Cross hereby certify that: From 6 May 1943 to 18 August 1945, I was a nurse stationed with the Red Cross of Switzerland. My duties during that period were to accompany the Red Cross as directed in order to provide health and comfort where I could. My unit was accompanying General Patton when he liberated the Concentration Camp of Buchenwald, Germany, on 11 April 1945.
I was in the front passenger seat of the lead Red Cross lorry when we entered the camp behind the American troops. The entrance to the camp was through wrought iron gates with the words ‘Jedem das Seine’ forged into the design. I was later to learn that a translation of these words was ‘everyone deserves what they get.’ The camp was surrounded by a barbed wired fence approximately two meters high and with additional lines of barbed wire on the top. There was a guard tower above the entrance. As we drove into the camp, we could see rows of wooden huts. There were prisoners wandering about – some were excited to see us and welcomed us enthusiastically although they were clearly weak. Others walked with eyes glazed as though drugged or in a daze. These prisoners seemed to have little awareness of what was happening around them. They were almost all very emaciated.
Then I became aware of the full horror of the situation. There were mounds of dead bodies littered around the central square. Other lone bodies lay sprawled on the ground where they had fallen. Some of the corpses had clearly been beaten severely, for others the cause of death was less obvious and could have been malnutrition or disease. The corpses were painfully thin.
We set to work unloading the trucks and trying to tend to the situation. As a complete examination of the camp took place, the full horror of what had happened there began to become apparent, although it would be later before I became aware of all the atrocities which had been practiced there.
Even after the liberation, despite our efforts, former prisoners were dying at a rate of around forty a day. I and my colleagues located the infirmary, our primary focus being attention to the patients already in the hospital. I quickly realized that this was no ordinary hospital and that the facility was in fact a medical experimentation unit. There were no medicines left behind. All drugs and dressings, which might have been useful having been removed. Lined on either side of each hut there were camp beds. These were occupied by prisoners who were unable to move. The medical conditions I treated included a man who had had his testicles removed. He described to me how the doctor who had carried out the castration had insisted on showing him a jar containing them after the operation. There were typhus victims and others who had been subjected to poison gas experiments and who had suffered side effects as a result. Almost all the prisoners very malnourished, their limbs painfully thin. Many had extended stomachs as a result of hunger. All were traumatized by the experiences they had been subjected to, and the brutality they had witnessed. We immediately began to prepare to evacuate those patients who were strong enough to withstand the journey to a hospital. Many, however, were too ill to be moved, and others were clearly dying, our intervention coming too late to save them. These cases were particularly poignant. When the patients realized their ordeal was over and the camp had been liberated, a light would come to their eyes and with it a new energy. It broke my heart to watch this light fade, as did their life, as their bodies finally succumbed; All I could think was at least their suffering was at an end.
Although my duties were focused on the living, it was impossible to ignore the horror of the camp. It had been an extermination camp and had housed mainly men, from all corners of Europe. Their nationality and a camp number had been tattooed on their stomachs. The survivors told me horrific tales of how occupants had been killed by being worked to death, being shot in the back of the neck, starvation, disease, torture and brutality. They wore striped camp uniforms. Some had overcoats. They were housed in huts. The huts stank, and were stacked with bunks where men slept up to five in each bunk. Even those who were fit enough to be transferred suffered typically from starvation and infestation of lice and fleas, unavoidable in the cramped conditions. While performing my duties at the camp, I also saw the ovens in the crematorium. Their disposal capacity apparently four hundred bodies per day. There was a row of ovens. The makers, J.A. Topf and Sons had placed their plaque on the wall. I saw charred human remains in the ovens and piles of human ash outside the building. I saw stacks of human bodies outside the crematorium where they had been abandoned. Words cannot describe the sight. Malnourished bodies were stacked nearly six feet high, legs and arms protruding randomly like matchsticks tossed to the ground. Eyes stared from the corpses accusingly. Never in all my years as a nurse have I witnessed such disregard for the human being.
Other discoveries at the camp were brought to my attention. Depravities included lampshades made of human skin, pictures painted on human skin, and human heads shrunk to one fifth of the normal size.
The day following the liberation, General Patton ordered that mostly male German citizens of military age, plus a few women, from the nearby town of Weimar tour the camp. They were forced to walk the five miles from the town to the camp. I remember watching the townspeople arrive. Generally speaking, they appeared well-dressed and well-fed. As they entered the gates, they were confident and jovial. That soon changed as the atrocities were revealed to them. The General had insisted that the camp be left as it was found until the movie crews had filmed the evidence of what had happened. There would be the war commission afterwards, and therefore a need for preservation of evidence. Many of the visiting women fainted and required treatment before they were able to leave for the five-mile return walk to their homes. Many claimed to have no knowledge of what was taking place at the camp, despite living in such proximity.
After the visit, and when the film crew had done its work, the burials began. The US soldiers took charge of organization of the burials and the resettlement of the camp occupants. I continued to be stationed in the infirmary and volunteered to stay with those patients who were too ill to be moved. It was then that we had some exciting news. We were told that Josephine Baker, the singer and dancer, intended to visit the camp.
Initially the Red Cross advised against the visit because of the risk of typhoid in the camp. we were told, however, that Miss Baker insisted on visiting. I personally tried to prevent the visit, too, as I felt that the patients were too weak and would not benefit from having a celebrity such as Miss Baker in their midst.
I was wrong. Miss Baker arrived about two in the afternoon and immediately entered the infirmary. I spoke to her personally to warn her about the risk from typhoid and to explain how the disease could be spread. She was wearing an Airforce overcoat when she arrived, but she took it off when she sang. She was wearing a glamorous blue dress with diamante detail at the waist. She looked very beautiful and made it possible to forget for a few moments where we were. Some of the patients cried when she sang. Then she spent time chatting to many of them. She also sat with one who was dying and held his hand. Even though the patients were very ill, I could see that the visit by Miss Baker’s visit had brought some comfort to them. One or two noticeably brightened and sat up in their beds, determined to look the best for their famous visitor. I thanked Miss Baker at the end of her visit and reminded her to wash her hands immediately. I could see that she was not in the best of health herself. I was told by her entourage that she refused to stop and was determined to continue performing for allied troops and liberated prisoners until the war was completely over.
I stayed at the camp until the last patient was able to leave, and then returned to my home. The last thing I did before leaving the camp was to visit the memorial to the tree of Goethe, which was inside the campgrounds, though only the stump remained. Goethe, who had been a resident of Weimar, had been in the habit of climbing the Ettersberg hill and walking to the tree. He had done some of his writings there. The tree had been destroyed by American bombing in 1944. Some of the prisoners had described to me people having their arms tied behind their backs and then hung from the tree. This torture was called Strappado. I could not understand how persons who could appreciate the great scholar could also inflict such cruelty upon their brothers in humanity.
The words of the Buchenwald oath sworn by a group of the camp survivors after they had risen up and overthrown their guards will be forever in my consciousness. “We will cease our fight when the last guilty person stands before the judges of the people. The obliteration of Nazism as well as its roots is our guiding principal. The building of our new world of peace and freedom is our only goal. That is what we owe our murdered comrades and their families.”
It is estimated that fifty-one thousand men and boys died in various ways at Buchenwald.
I swear that the words of the affidavit are true and indeed am bound to say that my words can never adequately describe the horrors I saw at Buchenwald. The pain and suffering I witnessed there will be forever scarred on my memory.
All of which is the truth. Sworn on this day, the 19th of May 1946.
(this is an extract from the Appendix of the novel Josephine , singer,dancer, soldier,spy by Eilidh McGinness-Veronica Hope is a fictional person-the events described horribly real. )
During World War Two, when, as a result of missions, soldiers would be unable to access a field kitchen, standard field ration packs was supplied. The rations for American soldiers tended to be more generous than those of their British counterparts. A typical ration pack for one day comprised the following-
Breakfast : 1 can of ham, veal or eggs, biscuits, 1 bar of fruit paste, 1 bag of coffee, a pack of 4 cigarettes, chewing gum, 3 pieces of sugar, water purification tablets, 1 key to open the can.
Dinner: 1 can of cooked cheese, ham or ham and cheese, fighting biscuits, 15 bags of milk powder (original ration) or 5 caramels (subsequent rations), a pack of 4 cigarettes, 3 pieces of sugar, salt, Matches, juice powder (lemon flavour 1942, orange in 1943 then grape in 1945), 1 key to open the can.
Supper: 1 can of chicken pâté, or pork-carrots-apples, or beef-pork or sausages, fighting biscuits, 1 small bar of chocolate (or sweets for the warm countries), Toilet paper, a pack of 4 cigarettes, 3 pieces of sugar, chewing gum, powdered or cube soup, 1 key to open the can.
Whilst in North Africa, Josephine Baker undertook a number of missions. She secretly gathered intelligence for the Free French Forces under the leadership of General de Gaulle to whom she was intensely loyal. She also performed for British and U.S.A. troops to help maintain morale. Her performances before US troops were used as a means of fighting segregation which then existed between fighting units. Josephine refused to perform before divided audiences saying
“We've got to show that blacks and whites are treated equally in the army. Otherwise, what's the point of waging war on Hitler?”
During this period Josephine regularly travelled by jeep crossing thousands of kilometres of desert. Before setting out, her entourage, would, with a requisition slip be supplied with the exact amount of provisions required for the journey.
Imagine setting out to cross the Saraha desert-journey time three days- with the designated amount of fuel calculated as necessary for the journey and with three days of ration supplies.
Ignoring the dangers which such a journey would have occasioned at the time, the routine difficulties of travel could have proved disastrous- if they took a wrong turning so putting pressure on the fuel supplies or if the jeep broke down.
At night the group slept in army tents camping on stony areas beside the road for fear of exploding land mines.
It is difficult to imagine Josephine Baker, the only black woman who ever danced for the Zeigfield Follies, the woman who strolled down the Champs Elysees dressed in the finest couture Paris could offer with a cheetah by her side, the woman described by Ernest Hemingway as “the most sensational woman anybody ever saw,” sitting on the ground, around a camp fire, army tent in the background, alone but for a few companions and the eerie echoes of the desert at night, munching hungrily into a can of bully beef, but it appears to have been an experience which she thrived upon despite the pressures these journeys put upon her health.
Author Josephine, singer, dancer, soldier, spy.
Poland’s foreign affairs minister Jacek Czaputowicz and head of the Polish veterans office Jozef Kasprzyk joined Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois at the opening of the Armoured Wings exhibition. The exhibition premiered in Gdańsk where it was housed at The Museum of the Second World War, and is now at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces in Brussels.
Armoured Wings focuses on Poland’s role in the liberation of Flanders following four years of German occupation during the Second World War. September 2019 saw the the 75th anniversary of the start of the liberation. The Belgian government returned to power on 8 September 1944 and Flanders was liberated on the 1stNovember 1944.
The government of Flanders helped fund and design the exhibition, in a desire “ to pay tribute to and to honour the soldiers of the Polish 1st Armoured Division, who liberated Belgium, and in particular the Flemish part of Belgium,” said Yves Wantens, the general representative of the government of Flanders.
The 1st Armoured Division is well-known and commemorated in Flanders, as it was responsible for pursuing the Germans along the English Channel in the summer of 1944. The division liberated a number of cities in Flanders, including Ypres, Roeselare, Tielt, Ruiselede and Ghent before moving north into the Netherlands, where it liberated Breda.
Polish exhibition designer Ewa Świder-Grobelna designed Armoured Wings, and it was curated by Dirk Verbeke of Tielt. Verbeke is the chair of the Polish 1st Armoured Division Belgium.
“The exhibition is a sign of brotherhood between Flanders and Poland,” said Verbeke. “I’ve been collecting documents, books, photographs and film footage about the 1st division for 25 years now. We spent nine months putting together this exhibiton.”
The importance of the role of this division in Flanders was largely unknown in Poland until the 1990s, said Verbeke. Documentation was scarce, all of it held in Flanders “That’s why we wanted to show them this history.”
The pieces that make up the exhibition were culled from both Flemish and Polish museums, as well as private archives in Flanders. “These resources were unimaginable to us,” said Ryszard Mozgol of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance. “Just try to imagine hundreds of photos, all related to the First Polish Armoured Division held by private collectors. This shows the extraordinary care with which the Belgians approach this period of history.”
The exhibition will run at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces until 30 March 2020, after which it will tour several cities in Flanders, all of which were liberated by the division, including Poperinge, Tielt, Roeselare, Aalter, Sint-Niklaas and Lommel.
Photo: Citizens of Ghent welcome the soldiers of the Polish 1st Armoured Division
#WW2 #Poland #liberation #Flanders #Polish
Author -The Cypher Bureau (how the Poles solved Enigma )
New Year’s Eve – Sylwester (sil-VEST-er)
New Year’s Eve in Poland’s major cities is often celebrated by way of a formal ball. Some of which have a long history as for example the one sponsored by the Warsaw Philharmonic Society or the ball at the castle in Golub-Dobrzyn. Traditionally the New Year’s Eve ball always begins with a polonaise, an elegant court dance.
In the countryside, New Year’s Eve day may provide an excuse for some pranks. In the past if was not unusual for the village jokers to disassemble somebody’s wagon and reassemble it on the roof of a house, or to smear windows and doorknobs with tar. In the Żywiec region groups of boys disguised as devils, bears, and beggars would scour the village whilst rattling empty cans, they would accost any young woman they came across and knock her down in the snow. All tricks are forgiven, however, for they are believed to be the ousting of the old passing year.
Both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were considered an opportunity for fortune telling. New Year’s Eve predictions were considered especially powerful if no crosses or belts were worn and no blessings were requested. Typical rituals to ascertain the identity of a future spouse included looking into the steamed mirror after a bath on New Years Eve to see the person’s face; or sleeping on a log to see the person’s face in a dream. Another method was to catch the moon’s reflection in a mirror, which would then reveal the future spouse’s name. Many Poles would carry fish scales in their wallet as a means of ensuring prosperity in the coming year.
New Year’s Day
One important highlight of New Year’s Day was bread baking. Animals were shaped from dough—sheep, rabbits, geese, cows, and birds. Godparents often gave these breads to godchildren as presents. In some areas of Poland, paczkior donuts were baked to assure wealth for the coming year. The circle is seen as a representation of life coming full circle. Bread in the shapes of a ring or a cross were hidden at the dinner table and used for fortune telling. If someone found a ring, marriage awaited; a cross—entry into the clergy.
Traditions to ensure luck and prosperity in the forthcoming year include “Wake up early on New Year’s Day, wake up early for the rest of the year;” “Touch the floor with the right foot when getting out of bed, expect a lot of good luck for the whole year;” and “To get rich, put coins in a small bag and run through the fields shaking the bag, making a lot of noise.”
Traditionally, New Year’s Day was a time for prediction called podbljunaja or “under the plate.” One such practice is where each person takes a ring off his or her finger and places it into a bowl filled with water. A plate covers the bowl and songs are sung. At the end of each song, a ring is pulled out and the fate that the song foretells is believed to apply to the owner of that ring. Some Podbljudnaja foretell a wedding, some wealth, some a journey. In some cases, the participants create their own songs for the divination ritual and use some traditional symbolisms. Bread, grain, millet, and rye symbolize fulfillment and material security; gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fur, and expensive cloth symbolize luxury and wealth. Doing things together such as eating, drinking, working, standing or sitting together, symbolizes love and happy marriages. The songs are usually short since one quickly follows another. Traditionally, each refrain ends with a praiseworthy word such as “glory.”Another such ritual of prediction was if a thread hangs from one’s clothing, wrap it around a finger while reciting the alphabet. Whichever letter is reached when the thread is fully wrapped is the initial of the reciter’s future spouse. The color of the thread is also important; pale thread for a blonde spouse, dark for a brunette.
Best wishes, health and happiness for the New Year
Author of The Cypher Bureau –how the Poles solved Enigma
Christmas is traditionally the most important festive celebration in Poland and plays a major role in Polish culture and tradition. The customs relating to this celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ have been observed with reverence for generations. Polish families decorate a Christmas tree, share Christmas wafers, sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts.
On Christmas Eve, twenty-fourth December, immediately after sunset, children begin to search for the first star to appear in the sky. The sign that the official Christmas-Eve dinner can begin. The most important moment of the celebration involves sharing the Christmas wafer and exchanging best wishes. This is a sign of reconciliation, love, friendship and peace, but above all of forgiveness.
Only after the wafer is shared, can family members sit at the prepared table. Usually, the hostess places hay straws under a white table cloth, which are later taken out by people sitting at the table. A long and straight straw bodes a good year without problems or complications. An additional place is set for a stray wanderer or an unexpected guest, who should not be alone on such a special day. An empty place is also a sign of remembrance for deceased relatives.
On Christmas Eve, traditionally either twelve fasting dishes are served, symbolising twelve months or twelve apostles or an odd number of dishes are prepared. There could be five, seven, or even eleven of them. Legend has it that the more varied the food, the greater the prosperity that will befall the participants of the meal.
Historical accounts show that originally Christmas Eve dinner was prepared only from the fruit of earth: agricultural produce and fruit of the forest, rivers, ponds and lakes. This way, peasants paid homage to Mother Earth. Meals consisting of fish, considered fasting by the Church, were initially eaten on Christmas Eve mostly in fishing households and in manors and monasteries, and similar places which would have their own fish-breeding ponds, which were quite frequent in Poland.
With time, carp has become the most important fish meal on Christmas Eve in Poland. On Christmas Eve, they are usually served fried with grated horseradish or in jelly accompanied with vegetables. In the past they used to be served in a grey sauce, called the Polish sauce comprised of fish blood and wine.
Apart from carp, the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Poland includes borscht soup made of beetroot or mushrooms with ravioli-type dumplings with mushroom filling, pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, as well as salads and fish, including herrings prepared in many different ways. Christmas desserts include poppy seed rolls, honey-cakes, shortcakes with almonds, nuts and raisins, as well as stewed apple, pear and plum compote. Kutia (wheat with poppy seeds and honey), in turn, is a relic of old rites in honour of the deceased.
The tradition of decorating Christmas trees came to Poland from Germany in the 18th century. Prior to that people would hang the top of a fir, a pine or a spruce from the roof, and place a sheaf of corn in the corner. The tree was meant to protect the house and its inhabitants from evil. The star that is often put at the top of the tree symbolises the Star of Bethlehem. Decorated with trinkets and other ornaments, the Christmas tree usually stays in the house until Epiphany (6 January).
After the feast, at midnight, people go to church for the Midnight Mass commemorating the prayer of shepherds who waited for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Author The Cypher Bureau –how the Poles solved Enigma
#christmaseve #Poland #Polish
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