Saturday, November 18, 2017

CHRISTMAS: "My Favorite Things - Shopping Polish for Christmas"

by Staś Kmieć
reprinted from the November 2017 issue of 
The Polish American Journal

* Click on link (in red) to direct you to online shopping pages

It should be easy to select a gift for me for Christmas, a birthday, or any other occasion – find something Polish!  But, I guess not so easy is what to get?  I have acquired so many books, CDs, DVDs and artifacts over the years and many travels that one may not want to risk getting something I already have.  When I receive something Polish, I am overjoyed.
These days, there is so much out there to choose from, and lots of stuff to pass over like pierogi sealers, and pseudo-Polish cookbooks by non-Poles or culinary experts intent on modernizing the ingredients of treasured classics. 
I will often purchase a coffee table book, like Beata Zatorska’s Rose Petal Jam: A Summer in Poland or the follow-up Sugared Orange: A Winter in Poland for a family member or someone whose interests appreciate Polish themes. These books go beyond the norm and in addition to great recipes, provide thoughtful and thought-provoking stories, history and information, with an artistic layout of photographic images.
For me, if it’s Polish, it needs to be unique and ring true to the culture.  I have been compiling an extensive “wish list” of items from Poland and from American import websites of “My Favorite Things.” Though it is rare for me to receive a Polish gift, from this list I can at least buy gifts for myself.
The Polish American Journal On-Line Gift and Bookstore offers an array of items to enable you to shop Polish for Christmas.  To ensure timely delivery, make sure to order early!
Any item in the PolArt catalog is available directly from PAJ, as well. You can check the website and order these items by contacting: or call 1(800) 422-1275.
Dolls and Action Figures
An assortment of folk costumed dolls and historical action figures will instill a sense of Polish pride and knowledge to any boy or girl. 

Among the many doll collectibles, a newer item drew my attention.  The Polskie Stroje Ludowe (Polish Folk Costumes) series of dolls is an extraordinary guide in the Polish language to the traditions of specific regions. The detailed porcelain doll comes with an informative booklet of folk rituals, habits of everyday life, forgotten dances, open-air museums, and a description of the costume.  Available are Podhalanka from Polish Highlands, Bamberka from Poznań, and Krzczonowianka from Lublin region.
As the accompaniment to a gift of a historical novel such as Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 17th century Trilogy, or Alex Storozynski’s The Peasant Prince, you could include a military action figure of Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish Hussar from 17th Century, King Władysław Jagiełło, an 1810 Wisła Legion Lancer, a 1944 AK Soldier, Marshall Józef Piłsudski or the literary characters of Michał Wołodyjowski and nobleman Onufry Zagłoba. (

Coloring Books
A Polish dance coloring book for children which is formatted with music and verses on the
left-hand pages and a sketch of a dance couple ready for coloring on the right-hand pages. The back of the book has corresponding dance moves for Chodzony, Polonez, Mazur, Krakowiak, Kujawiak, Oberek, Trojak, and Polka Lubelska clearly diagrammed for each song. (
Polskie Stroje Ludowe - Traditional Polish Costumes
Children will become familiar with the regional folk costumes of Poland – the left side of the two-page spread contains a full color image of the pair from the region, while the right side has a ready-to-color drawing of the same pair. (
Kolorowanki Folkowa - Coloring Book of Polish Folk Designs
For the adult who wants to unwind and relax after the pressures of a grueling day at work comes this Polish-themed coloring book.  Ideal for older students (12-14 years) the book is folk tour around Poland – beginning with nine of the most well-known folk costumes and then takes you to six Polish folk regions, featuring art and artifacts from each region. Color the Lublin Easter pisanki, the Kujawy chest, the Kraków szopka and Opole ceramics. (
Board Games
For the older youngster who’s learning Polish, here are some Polish-language Board games that will exercise language skills, while making history and culture fun!
Slawni Polacy - Famous Poles
Odkryj Wawel - Discover Wawel
Bitwa pod Grunwaldem - Battle of Grunwald
Kocham Polske - I Love Poland
Czerwony Kapturek – Little Red Riding Hood (a children’s game) (
For those who seek Polish recipes or like to settle down with a “good read,” PAJ Bookstore offers an array of cookbooks, historical novels, cultural and history books.
Historical Novels
Jadwiga’s Crossing. The challenges and joys of the trans-Atlantic crossing made by millions
of European immigrants in the late nineteenth century are explored in this meticulously researched work by Richard and Aloysius Lutz – a must-read for Polish-Americans.  Viewed through the eyes of newlyweds Paul and Jadwiga Adamik, this compelling tale depicts the hardships encountered by a group of Polish immigrants. Readers are introduced to Poles and Polish folklore from several regions of then-partitioned Poland, as well as the tensions that existed between Poles and the three nations that occupied Poland in the nineteenth century: Prussia, Russia, and Austria.

By James Conroyd Martin
Sweeping in scope with a backdrop of Poland’s stormy history, James Conroyd Martin has written four novels that will transport you to another time and another place.
The Boy Who Wanted Wings. A dark Tatar raised by a Polish peasant family, wishes to become a Polish hussar. When he meets the daughter of the noble who owns the land that his parents work, he falls hopelessly in love. Though she returns his love, race and class differences make this quest as impossible as that of becoming a hussar.
Push Not the RiverBased on the real diary of a Polish countess who lived through the rise and fall of the Third of May Constitution years, this romantic novel paints the portrait of the metamorphosis of a nation. 
Against a Crimson Sky In this sequel to Push Not the River, Martin takes the characters 20 years into the fascinating Napoleonic era, highlighting the exploits of the glorious Polish lancers.
The Warsaw Conspiracy. Completing the trilogy, the family saga continues – this time set against the November Rising (1830-1831).

Each novel stands alone, or you can get the “Trilogy Package” at an exclusive PAJ price. Vivid, romantic, and thrillingly paced, the novels have been called “Poland’s Gone with the Wind.”
PAJ’s Sophie Hodorowicz Knab provides an important contribution to World War II history, based on extensive research – archival records from the U.S. and Europe, family records, war crime trial testimonies, diaries, and previously unpublished victim accounts.  Written by the daughter of Polish forced laborers, Knab’s factual account gives a voice to the women who were taken from their homes as young as 12 years old and subjected to slave labor conditions, starvation, sexual exploitation, forced abortions and child separation — all while Nazi propaganda depicted them as well-cared-for volunteers. Knab explains how it all happened, from the beginning of occupation in Poland to liberation in an unflinching, detailed portrait of a forgotten group of Nazi forced labor survivors.
Borrowing from his mother’s extensive 1968 cookbook, The Art of Polish Cooking (also available from PAJ), recipes are adapted by the husband-wife team – Laura and Peter Zeranski into an easy-to follow format and are accentuated by tantalizing images by photographer Bob Rock.  The two cookbooks offer new recipes, as well such favorites as Pope John Paul II’s favorite dessert – the crème cakes called kremówki.
In this expanded edition, PAJ’s Sophie Hodorowicz Knab offers recipes for favorite Polish foods combined with the history and cultural traditions that created them. Arranged according to the cycle of seasons, this cookbook with over 100 recipes explores life in the Polish countryside through the year. I will open it to any page and just start reading; it is a valuable resource for anyone wanting insight into the reason and meaning behind traditional Polish village cooking,  It’s like having your Babcia in the kitchen with you!
It’s the cookbook many of us grew up with before ethnic cooking became popular, and it’s a classic!  First published in United States in 1948, it was the first complete book of Polish cookery in the English language and hasn’t lost a bit of its charm or relevance.  For anyone beginning their collection, this is the perfect “first Polish cookbook.”  

Bolesławiec Pottery
“Bolesławiec” is the collective term for pottery produced in Bolesławiec, Poland – also known as “Polish pottery” or “Polish stoneware.”  The town itself is often called Miasto Ceramiki (town of ceramics).
For centuries one of the premier art forms in Europe has been the ceramics created in the southwestern Śląsk region. The durable and functional creamy white and blue stoneware pieces are unique and easily identifiable.  It is impossible to talk about the town without talking about the ceramics that have been produced there for over a thousand years. There has been a resurgence in the popularity of Boleslawiec ceramic art in the United States, and many of my American friends collect them.
Why Polish pottery? There is no other, more durable or versatile stoneware available. The pottery is microwavable, oven-safe, dishwasher safe, freezer safe, lead and cadmium free.  It’s been tested by the FDA and is food safe. The glaze on the pottery allows for easy separation of foods – cutting down on the need for oils and allowing healthier cooking and even easier clean-up
Aprons and Towels
What better way to cook your Polish dishes than in a White Eagle embroidered 2-pocket red apron? (Other styles available). New, larger kitchen towels are also available in  a variety of embroided phrases and patterns, from “Polish Chef” to “I Love Kielbasa”.
A Polish Christmas
Creating your own Polish family traditions is an important way of continuing our heritage.  With each Christmas comes a decorated tree and the Wigilia Christmas Eve dinner.  Continue or begin including customs and ornaments to make your Christmas “Polish.”
A Polish Christmas Eve by Rev. Czeslaw Krysa
Learn about Wigilia, the Christmas Eve dinner and how to make Polish paper ornaments and traditional dishes. This book is a quick and easy reference, step-by-step guide and international collection of customs, stories, recipes, carols and decorations with glossary, pronunciation guide, and a regional map of Poland. (
The breaking of the Christmas opłatek is a custom that began in Poland in the 10th century and is practiced by people of Polish ancestry around the world. It is considered the most ancient and beloved of Polish traditions.
The wafer symbolizes the unity of the family, which many consider to be the main pillar of society. According to beliefs, the bond of unity should exist between family members. The wafer also symbolizes forgiveness and reconciliation.
Practice sharing the Christmas wafer with family and guests. Many people place a piece in each Christmas Card they mail.
In Poland, the making of straw ornaments dates to the time when the only available
materials for decorations were those that were found on the farm. During the beginning of the Christmas season, homes were creatively and ornately decorated using straw, paper, yarn, and cloth ornaments. These ornaments are very different from modern Christmas decorations. The designs include stars, wreaths, reindeer figures, pine cone shapes, and bell shapes.

In addition to the traditional glass-blown Polish ornaments Polish Pottery and folk dancer ornaments can make your tree a point of conversation and truly unique. (

Check out the PAJ Catalog for more items: