Piotr Bein's blog = blog Piotra Beina

04/01/2013

Polish Ways: Outstanding New Book

Filed under: Uncategorized — grypa666 @ 00:30

Here is my Amazon review of a new book. Although not partaking of dealing with the defamation of Poland, I post it because of its exhaustive information about Polish customs and ways–especially for the Polish-American. This book is certainly worth knowing about!

Review of Polish/Polonian Heritage and Lifestyles, by Robert Strybel (2012). Terese Pencak Schwartz.

Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis

An Outstanding Mini-Encyclopedia of Polish Customs and Habits

If you are of Polish descent, married to someone who is, or just wants to know more about Polish ways, this single volume is invaluable. This comprehensive volume covers religious holidays (e. g., Christmas, Easter, Corpus Christi, and many more), Polish religious feast days, Polish cooking, rural Polish customs, Polish patriotic observances (e. g, the Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising), Polish-related parades in the USA, Polish-American newspapers and organizations, and much more. WARNING: If you, the reader, think that you know a lot about Polish ways, you will probably end up surprised at what you do not know.

Why does it matter if one is a Polish-American in the first place? The author points out that the old WASPish model of the “melting pot” has given way to cultural pluralism. Thus, the USA can be considered a “tossed salad.”

Strybel cites American census data that indicates that 3.3% of Americans claim some form of Polish heritage. In some states, such as Illinois and Michigan, Americans of Polish descent exceed 10% of the population. However, as with most ethnic groups, Poles in America tend to assimilate to the American culture, and lose contact with their heritage. Owing to the fact that Poles tend to be self-effacing, they have much less impact on American culture and politics than other ethnic groups of comparable size.

This author presents basic information on Polishness, such as the modified Latin alphabet used in the Polish language. He also provides some elementary historical and geographical information about Poland and about Poles in America. He includes some quotes about Poland by famous Poles and non-Poles. He even provides a list of organizations (mainly in Chicago) that perform Polish weddings, also listing contact information (addresses, telephone numbers, and websites).

Names are important. The reader can enjoy a list of canonized Polish saints, and another one of Polish name days. In addition, the author describes Polish first names and surnames, and includes a table of the most common boy and girl first names in Poland today. He shows how Polish names are commonly shortened or anglicized. Would you believe that Strybel even includes names given by Poles to their dogs, cats, and horses?

In addition to all this, this work provides interesting all-around information. For instance, Strybel goes into some detail on how the modern commercially-oriented Santa Claus differs substantially from Saint Nicholas. [Of course, part of this stems from the changes in the culture, even in recent times. As a child decades ago, I experienced SWIETY MIKOLAJ, as well as the Americanized Santa Claus, as someone who gives gifts as a reward for good behavior. Nowadays, gifts from Santa are less something earned, and more of an entitlement–not infrequently an extravagant one.]

Owing to its comprehensive (almost exhaustive) nature, this work includes arcane customs rarely practiced even by Polish immigrants. [I am the son of Polish immigrants, whose parents socialized in like-minded circles, and do not recall the observance of many of the items described in this book.] Of course, one may wish to quibble with, or amend, some items in this work. For instance, Strybel suggests that Poles got the Christmas tree custom from the Germans. While this may be true in a strict genetic sense, there is much more to it. Many cultures had used trees for various religious purposes (other than worshipping them), going back to antiquity. For instance, the ancient Jews brought various trees into their temple. (Isaiah 60:13).

The author is candid about Polish failings, notably a lack of unity. [Of course, every vice can be a virtue, and vice-versa. For instance, the Polish vice of disunity was also historically a virtue in terms of the promotion of individual liberties and the absence of indigenous authoritarian governments–unlike that in the order-centered and conformity-oriented German culture.].

In conclusion, this work is without doubt a treasure. It can be read for enjoyment, and can be used as a handy reference work for years to come.

Well done, Mr. Strybel!

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