First of all Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone, hopefully everyone had a wonderful Christmas full of joy and thoughts about the Savior.
I can happily report that Christmas was/is amazing here in Poland. All my hopes and dreams of what a Polish Christmas would look like have come true, including having 60F weather.
|We're Handing out Free Hot Chocolate|
I guess I'll just work my way through all the fun activities that happened this week. We started out the week trying to set up with people for meetings, but everyone that we have been teaching is out of town/cant meet because of Christmas, so we started focusing a lot more on finding service type activities to do which have been amazing.
Our first big thing happened on Wednesday, which is the day before Christmas Eve. We went to this Retirement home and sang at their Wigilia (Christmas Eve) Party. We thought it was going to be a lot less of a big deal than it was, so we were kinda unprepared, but the old people loved it. They were singing along to all the Polish Christmas Carols, and liked our American songs as well. It was super cool. Then after we sang we got to sit down with them and eat a traditional Polish Wigilia meal, which was a miracle because we were convinced that we weren't going to be able to try it, and for Elders Cowley Jeffs and Burdick this was their last chance to get a Polish Wilgilia dinner because they didn't get one last year. It was awesome.
|Gift from American Families at the Embassy|
So after we sang, we went to go sit down and I sat next to these two old polish grandmas. They were super excited that I was eating everything for the first time and made sure I tried everything. It was really funny, I sat down and ate a little bit of the Cabbage stew but the old ladies took it away from me, even though it was really good, because they claimed it was terrible and not worth eating, so they wouldn't let me finish it. But later in the meal they had me try the Śledź, which is pretty much Carp inside a savory Jello with carrots and peas and stuff inside the Jello. It was pretty nasty to be completely honest... But they wouldn't let me stop eating it, they watched me eat the whole thing, I was the only missionary to be able to finish all their Śledź, because I had to.
|Lots of good stuff|
Then after the meal the two ladies asked me to help them carry their bags up to their room, so Elder Cowley and I went up with them. Then we talked to one of them for like 5 minutes and she asked about how we liked Warsaw and showed us around her room, then as we were leaving she shakes our hands and starts crying and said "I hope you will think the best of all of us here in Warsaw" then gave us a Polish blessing (ill explain what that is) and then the other lady came back from her room and put all these Chocolate bars into our hands. It was one of the coolest moments of my mission for sure.
So Polish blessings are really cool, people do it all the time around Christmas (and occasionally at other times) they basically hold you hand with both of their hands and wish you a big long list of blessings. For example you could say "I wish you everything the best, health, fortune in the new year, that your family ties will be strengthened, that you will be warm through the winter..." and it can go on for like 5 minutes. Definitely one of my favorite things Polish people do.
|A guy brought a Christmas tree onto the train|
After the Retirement home we went with the APs to go do our free hot chocolate stand. It was awesome, Elder Jeffs put on his Santa suit and we gave out free hot chocolate and talked to people about Christmas. Then towards the end of that we hear someone say "Hey look, its the missionaries" in English, so of course we talked to them. It was this American couple who have been here for about a month adopting these 3 super cool Polish kids. The kids were hilarious, they were running around yelling stuff in Polish that made no sense. Its funny because the parents understand 0 polish, but even after only 1 month with the kids they clearly had a really good relationship. Its amazing how loving little kids are.
Then on Christmas Eve in the afternoon we had a meal with all the missionaries and a couple other members who didn't have anywhere to go for the holidays. It was really special getting to spend time with everyone there.
In the Evening on Christmas Eve we went with Elders Jeffs, Burdick, Wynne, and Torres and ran around Centrum caroling to everyone. We went to the train station and sang carols for the people working there and also the people waiting for trains. It was super cool. There were tons of homeless people who came up to us and requested specific songs, which we played/sang for them. It was a really cool experience being able to make some people smile, especially the homeless people and the train station workers who couldn't be home for Christmas Eve.
That night we stayed over at the Assistant's apartment so that we could start caroling again the next morning. We all opened our presents there and hung out, we called a bunch of people and sang to them through the phone. We heard that Lublin was having a rough time (they are a 4 man city and apparently Christmas was pretty depressing down there) so we called them and sang them a bunch of Carols. Elder Connelly told us later that it helped them out a lot that we did that, so it was awesome. We also called Sister Edgren and sang to her and President.
In the morning we slept in until 8, which was President's Christmas present to the mission :) then we ate all our American Cereal and had studies. Then we continued our Caroling session, this time with Sisters Carlson and Craig instead of Elders Wynne and Torres. It was really fun, then we went and skyped our families, which was amazing.
And that was my Christmas in a nutshell. It truly was a magical time, I'm glad I got to spend it here in Poland, with the wonderful Polish people. I love the people here, and I love me mission.
Love you, and miss you all!
PS... Also I am getting transferred back to Kraków where I will be District Leader to serve with Elder Wilcox as Zone leaders! Super excited for that!