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Mom’s Book Passes On Polish Christmas Traditions

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Paulina Karwowska

Paulina Karwowska reads her book, Wigilia: A Tale about a Polish-American Family on Christmas Eve, to her children. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Christmastime brings people and traditions together from around the world, and CBS 2’s Don Schwenneker talked with one Chicagoan who wanted to find out the reason behind some of the traditions.

When Paulina Karwowska immigrated to Chicago as a child, her family brought with them all of the Christmas traditions of their old country. Now that she has kids of her own, she has found a new way to pass along those traditions.

Karwowska is passing on the rituals in her new book, Wigilia: A Tale about a Polish-American Family on Christmas Eve. For her, it’s a way to build a bridge from the past to the next generation.

“I found myself constantly explaining to my children our traditions on Christmas Eve, and just like a broken record over and over, ‘This is why we do this,’” Karwowska said, “and then I finally sat down and put it altogether, and wrote a book for them.”

It took Karwowska’s whole family to write the book.

“I sat down with my father and my mother, and we went through the entire night of Christmas Eve and put it altogether,” she said.

Karwowska then put the material into a book to share with her own children. With all the great things that Wigilia brings, Schwenneker wanted to know if there was a favorite tradition among Karwowska’s kids.

This was the answer from her son, Jack: “When we go by the window and put sparklers so Santa knows we’re good, like, we’re here and we’re ready.”

And you don’t have to be Polish to enjoy the book.

“For example, the white tablecloth that we used to symbolize the white cloth that was wrapped around Baby Jesus; certainly other cultures can incorporate that on Christmas Eve dinner,” Karwowska said.

Wigilia: A Tale about a Polish-American Family on Christmas Eve is available at Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Look for it at a kiosk where handmade Polish Christmas ornamenst are sold, which is run by Karwowska’s mother.

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