Wednesday, June 2, 2010

embracing the semi-polish

I am half Polish. I grew up thinking my family embraced our Polish heritage because we ate sausage and did polkas at weddings. It took me quite a while and seeing how other people celebrate their own culture and customs to realize that my family was quite lazy at being Polish.
My parents at their quasi-Polish wedding almost 35 years ago

My great grandparents emigrated from Poland during a time where it wasn't so hot to be Polish. In fact, I think it was quite awful because my grandpa changed his family name, removing the -kowski, in order to Americanize himself and fit in. Diversity wasn't valued back then and I think that was a major reason my grandparents never taught me much about my heritage. I don't know any Polish words, I don't know how to cook Polish foods, and I definitely have no clue where my family came from.

But us Midwestern Polish descendants, maybe even specifically Northwest Indiana Poles, have one wedding custom that I do know about: the everyone get in a circle around the couple and sing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" while also randomly shouting "she's still ours!" in Polish. What, that's not a thing? Well it is in my family.

You see, I've looked everyone on the internet for some indication this was a wedding tradition. Apparently the "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" serenade is usually reserved for sorority/frat sweethearts? Or something. I never went greek so I do not understand these things.

As for the shouting in Polish part, it seems to have roots in a Midwestern Polish custom where the father says the phrase "Jescze nasza" and all of the men at the wedding form a circle around the bride and exchange dances, for a small fee.

So it seems my family mushed together some things and came up with the Let Me Call You/Jescze Nasza. Now all I have to do is try to explain this to my DJ.

While I'm sad I've missed out on a lot of Polish heritage, I will say one thing: I am so glad I don't have to do the babydoll apron. If you're trying to picture it and getting confused, no, you are in fact doing it right. It's precisely an apron that has plastic babydolls stapled to it. Not all Polish traditions need to be embraced!

What cultural traditions are you adopting, eschewing or reinventing?

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