A pastoral visit is a social hybrid suspended between a social and religious event. Those who accept the carol try to do their best. As is well known, nothing amuses God more than a story about our plans.
Where did the custom of Christmas carols come from?
Bells on the cage, unmerciful altar servers singing with passion the immortal “They came to Bethlehem pa-ste-rzeee” and this awkward question about praying together at home. In addition, the inscription on the door C + M + B, which many translate as an abbreviation of the names of the three kings, is in fact a record of the blessing of the house: “Christus mansionem benedicat”. Due to the pandemic, in many parishes, the carol was replaced by a common mass, but the practice of pastoral visits, cultivated by generations, provides material for a good novel.
The tradition of caroling dates back to pagan times, and the word itself – from Latin, where “calendae” means the first day of the month. In ancient Rome, it was a time of fun, celebration and visit. This custom was taken over by the Slavs, and then it was Christianized by the Catholic Church. In principle, the carol is to be an opportunity for common prayer, blessing the household and tightening ties with parishioners, which is to take place during 20-minute meetings. A priest’s visit is also connected with making an offering to the church. It turns out that it does not always take the form of financial support.
– My retired parents moved to the countryside – says Adam. – Mom was always a believer, so it was obvious that she would accept the carol. The priest’s visit was scheduled for December 27, so, taking advantage of the Christmas break, I caught the spectacle straight from Reymont’s “Chłopów” by casting on the tape. Despite the fact that the priest had his own car, a person from the parish was assigned to drive it. As the priest chatted with the families, the unfortunate chauffeur was freezing outside. The biggest surprise, however, was that the parish priest entered the apartment with a wicker basket full of eggs in his hand. My mother asked if he would come to make an omelette, but it soon turned out that in this town it is customary to give the priest’s eggs from his own hens, like a medieval tribute – adds our interlocutor with a laugh.
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In some parishes it is a tradition that a priest eats a meal in a friend’s home.
– My mother was the Polish version of Jacinta Bukiet from “What People Will Tell” – Michał jokes. – She was active in the church, so it was agreed that the priest would stay with us for dinner during the Christmas carol. After the preparations that had started, it was to be expected that Christ, accompanied by the apostles, would visit us. Everything was buttoned up: the loosened duck was soaking in the marinade and the cheesecake was turning red when mom discovered with horror that she had mis-checked the date and the Christmas carol was on Friday, not Thursday, as she had thought. It wouldn’t make a difference to anyone, but not to my mother, who started to panic that she couldn’t serve meat on a lenten day, but it was too late to change anything. When it came to serving dinner, she announced that she had prepared something between a chicken and a fish and it was appropriate for Friday, the man says.
It happens, however, that carol singers unexpectedly stand at the door of the house. Usually in these cases, the best solution is to pretend that no one is there. Although an idea is good, it is not always possible to put it into practice.
– That day I came back from the tests, where it turned out that I would give birth to a sick child – Marta recalls the tests, which later turned out to be misinterpreted, and a healthy boy was born. – I was devastated, my mother came and brought home-made lemonade. She poured a glass of herself and my partner, and I tried to put the whole situation in my head. I was sitting on the couch in old sweatpants and my makeup smeared when the doorbell rang. My boyfriend, who is not Polish, went to open it. Then the priest entered the living room and saw the scene as if from a reportage about a deeply pathological family: me crying in the corner, vodka on the table, my mother with a roller in her hair. Behind him was my confused man, saying “he just said something God and just walked in”. At that time, I was applying for a church annulment of my previous marriage and the pastor knew me. Mom rushed to explain, immediately revealing that I was pregnant. I knew that this situation could not be saved anymore. I offered the priest a glass of lemon vodka and he drank it all at once – reports the woman.
The Christmas carol can surprise even those who do not accept it by definition.
– My grandfather knew priests who collaborated with the Nazis and then he decided that his foot would never be set in the bone – reveals Michał. – We lived with my mother’s parents in a large pre-war apartment. During the Christmas carols, my grandfather was hiding in the pantry. When the priest asked 5-year-old me where I lost my grandfather, eagerly, I led him into the kitchen, where the old man was hiding among the jars of gherkins. In the end, the gentlemen became friends and the priest became a frequent guest in our house, but my grandfather kept his word and never came back to the church. He also requested a secular funeral.
An obligatory element of the carol – hated by schoolchildren – is the presentation of a notebook for religion. The priest looks through the notes and signs the last lesson with the date.
– I was complaining all day at school that I had a carol, so my friend decided to take revenge and secretly took my notebook – says Daria. – Unaware of anything in the presence of my parents, I handed it over to have this embarrassment behind me, but it turned out that it was just the beginning. On the last page, in big red letters, my dear friend wrote, “Fuck you, f *** everything, f *** the whole world, because f *** a is worth”. The face of the priest was priceless, my mother almost fainted, and my father, though he was serious, was clearly amused. I was a little less laughing when I couldn’t see my friend for a month. But what are 30 days in the face of the promised eternity – sums up the 30-year-old.
Main photo source: Pawel_B / Getty images