Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2022!

Dear Friends,

Let me start my holiday wishes for the members and friends of Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club with a quote from the great 13th century Persian poet, Rumi: “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” Gratitude is the most uplifting of emotions; counting the blessings is the key to happiness.

  Among many moments to be grateful for this year in the Club, we had a beautiful caroling party with about 70 guests sharing “oplatek” wafer, special home-cooked dishes, and singing Christmas carols together in the beautifully decorated and welcoming home of Jola and Alex Wilk in Anaheim Hills (December 12, 2021). Henryk Chrostek and Olivia Kierdal led the carol sing-along. 
Christmas Carols: https://youtu.be/otMQr9_ZACc

For those who could not get there, on Saturday, December 18, 2021 we organized an international meeting by Zoom: Joanna Sokolowska-Gwizdka from Austin, Texas, gave a richly illustrated lecture about the holidays with Helena Modrzejewska, our club’s patron. There were guests from Texas, Florida and Canada (Agata Pilitowska, winner of our Helena Modjeska Prize 2019) and from Poland (Janusz Bieszk, whose lecture on Lechistan and Lechitach will be held by Zoom on January 15, 2022 at 12 noon).

For those who missed the lecture, here’s the link: 


Holidays are a great time to “feed on gratitude”— that is to cook and share “once-a-year” dishes, based on Grandma’s recipes, passed on through generations. Some of this traditional food is pretty weird to outsiders from other cultural traditions. I find that even my Polish  American friends in California do not have the same menu of Christmas dishes that I carried with me here, as sacrosanct rules for life, recipes for dishes I must cook once per year, or else there is no Christmas… “Kompot” anyone? “Kutia”? “Kapusta z grzybami”? “Karp w galarecie”? Everyone has their least favorite Polish traditional dish…

Barszcz z uszkami

Gingerbread by Marysia Kubal

My friends came from different parts of Poland and do not share those traditions that I am so attached to, though we share our history, language, culture… Yet, we all cherish what's most important about celebrating holidays together: family love expressed without words, by cooking together, laughing together around the kitchen table.  These gifts of companionship and contentment are priceless; they are far more important than anything that money can buy. I tried to capture those feelings in many poems over the years. Today, I’d like to share a holiday poem with all Phoenix House staff and friends as my wishes for Happy Holy Days of many shared delights and blessings!

>Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Best Wishes for the New Year 2022! 

~ Maja Trochimczyk, President

Rules for Happy Holy Days

Don’t play Christmas carols

at the airport. Amidst the roar
of jet engines, they will spread
a blanket of loneliness
over the weary, huddled masses,
trying not to cry out for home.

Don’t put Christmas light on a poplar.
With branches swathed in white
galaxies, under yellow leaves, the tree
will become foreign, like the skeleton
of an electric fish, deep in the ocean.

Clean the windows from the ashes
of last year’s fires. Glue the wings
of a torn paper angel. Brighten
your home with the fresh scent
of pine needles and rosemary.

Take a break from chopping almonds
to brush the cheek of your beloved
with the back of your hand,
just once, gently. Smile and say:
“You look so nice, dear, you look so nice.”

(c) 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

Good News

Did you know that Christmas

is Love, Love, Love, only Love

to be given, shared, cherished?

When baking together, hands

covered in flour, your fingertips

sweetened with chopped figs,

or roughened from wrapping

so many tamales for the family

dinner, while the honeyed voice

of Nat King Cole asks you to have

yourself a merry, little Christmas—


Love means sharing a laugh

at the antics of the dog that runs

in circles on the lawn, so happy

to be free—without leash, without

orders to sit, roll, obey the master.

Love is a quiet moment of writing

the sweetest of wishes to be mailed

far, far away—this year even further.

Love is this letter, filled with affection,

your kind, gentle words that glisten

with happiness & warmth.

(C) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk



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