piątek, 20 grudnia 2013

Christmas is almost here!

Just arrived after Mid-term we were invited to Christmas Evening for Seniors Club, which was appointed on 14th of December. As international volunteers we shared how Christmas and New Year are celebrated in our countries.
Of course there are a lot of similar traditions, but at the same time there is something special in each culture! Let’s see what similar and different have people from Hungary, Poland and Russia about Christmas and New Year. 

Christmas in Hungary
On 24th of December life in Hungary goes around Christmas. Streets are empty and some people are decorating Christmas trees, others are making dinner for the family feast. Traditionally people serve dishes with fish – Halászlé (fish soup) and carp baked with potatoes. Why carp? The answer is easy – the fish symbolize wealth and well-being for everyone! In every family there is own secret recipe they follow for years! Töltött pulyka (stuffed turkey) and Pörkölt (stew) are also favorite dishes in many families. It’s hard to imagine Hungarian Christmas without Bejgli – rolled dough filled with nuts or poppy seeds, people buy them in cake-shops or bake at home. And of course time for presents is the most pleasant time – brightly and colorfully packed they wait for children and adults under the Christmas tree! When dinner is finished religious people go to the Church for Christmas mess. And the day after is the day for visiting relatives and friends.
Christmas in Poland
Christmas has an important place in life of Polish people. Especially if we talk about Wigilia, Christmas Eve in Polish. There is a special role for Christmas decorations – the main element of it is a Christmas tree and Christmas wreaths. Also you can see compositions represent Holy Family, Christ Child and Magis. On 24th of December people cover tables with a white covering and set a table for the all family plus for one uninvited guest. Traditionally people lay little piece of hey under the covering as a symbol of well-being for the family. Christmas dinner should consist of 12 dishes.
There is one rule – all the dishes should be without meat. Usually among all the dishes there is “polish borsz” (beetroot broth), pierogi with cabbage, bigos and of course plenty of pies, gingerbread and poppy seed rolls. Every member of family has to try each dish at least once. And traditionally for all Catholical countries after the dinner people go to Christmas mess.
New Year and Christmas in Russia
It is well-known that most people in Russia are orthodox. That’s why we have Christmas on 7th of January. The reason is Julian calendar wasn’t change to new Gregorian one and that’s why we have 13 days difference. Unfortunately, most of Christmas traditions in Russia are just history now because in 1918 it was prohibited to celebrate Christmas. It’s so sad to imagine that children didn’t see the Christmas tree that year! Only in 1935 holiday appeared again, but it became rather New Year celebration then Christmas – because of anti-religious propaganda most of traditions were lost in history. Now only most religious people celebrate it according to all traditions, but others just prepare Christmas dinner and spend nice time with families.       
That’s why for most people in Russia nowadays New Year is more significant than Christmas. For this reason there are more traditions connected with New Year. For example, my favorite – making a wish! The secret is to write down a wish on a little piece of paper, burn it, throw ash in a glass with champagne and drink while Kremlin clock is striking twelve times! Also according to Russian tradition how you celebrate New Year's will dictate the course of the next 12 months...So that’s why people prefer celebrate it with family and close friends. And for this reason also there are so many dishes on the table – meat, fish, and different salads and of course caviar! If you have a lot of tasty food on your table, a year will be rich and prosperous.

And of course New Year and Christmas are favorite holidays for all children in the World. In each country there are characters that come especially for this time and secretly give presents to children! In Russia there are even two main characters – Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his grand-daughter Sniegourochka. Together they go to New Year’s parties in kindergartens and schools and leave sweets and tangerines under the New Year tree. 
In Poland and Hungary live brothers of Russian Ded Moroz - Święty Mikołaj and Mikulás, but unlike from him they bring presents much earlier – at 6th of December. In Hungary there an interesting tradition – good children get chocolates fruits from Mikulás, while bad children get “virgács” (a broom) from little evil-helper of Mikulás – Krampusz. In 24th of December children get presents again – this time from little Jezuska.

In the end I’d like to wish Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for everyone! Enjoy your holidays, spend time actively and gather energy for the next year! See you soon! 


poniedziałek, 16 grudnia 2013

Mid-term training

You might remember our post about the on-arrival training. Yes, already it was time for another one. This training is compulsory for every volunteer who has a long-term project. Thanks to the National Agency, our trainers and all the volunteers who were present we had a great time. Let’s see what happened:

The most delicious symbol
of Toruń: pierniki
The arrival day was the 6th and many of us were stuck in traffic jams for long hours because of heavy wind and snow. However, everybody made it in time for dinner. It was great to see familiar faces from the previous training but we were also excited to get to know the new ones. After dinner, we had a quick integration session with the trainers and then we decided to explore Toruń’s bars. One of our fellow volunteers had his project in Toruń, so he was our guide that night.

The next day was the first real day with workshops. After energizers and other fun brain starting activities, we split into groups. The groups were given a piece of paper with only one word on it. The task was to go out in the city, find out what this is and to get to know the story behind it.
Want to know a city well? Ask locals.
Then we met in our meeting room to present these stories. It was not just a simple presentation. We became actors and had to use our creativity and drama skills to tell the others our story. Fortunately, we had really nice weather and friendships already started to form, so we were happy to be there. It was a really nice way of getting to know Toruń. One day, we also had a little guided tour around the town.
Wojtek as a tour guide
On other occasions we visited the Centre of Contemporary Art and we also went to a children’s theatre once. Probably, Dudi the bird and her adventures will be remembered for a long time. At the Centre of Contemporary Art we did not only have a visit but it was also the place of a workshop. The topic was everyone’s least favourite: future. With the help of the sheets of papers on the ground, we had to walk on the path of our future and present our plans. I really liked the idea of exploring possibilities this way but somehow I was too scared to think about it. It was too soon maybe.

Let’s see some other activities, shall we? Once we were offered to discuss different topics at different parts of the hostel. There was one day when one part of the group wanted to go outside for activities and the rest of us preferred to stay inside. We were given questions to discuss questions about our stay in Poland, our projects and point of views. The ones who decided to go out did the same but they also had to take pictures that reflect their project or goals in the future.

Presenting the story of  'Filuś'

Most of the time we were working in groups and had various workshops and we (almost) always ended the day with evaluation and our Wojteks were welcoming any request. It was great that they took everyone’s needs into consideration while making the plan of activities for the training. Time went by very quickly and we soon arrived towards the end of our training. We finished the training with an evaluation letter and wishes and thoughts for everybody. During our last lunch altogether, we did a little performance in the dining room for our trainers to thank them this great experience. There was a friendly atmosphere all through the whole training, we got to know awesome people, nice stories. I would say that the training was a huge success and we all went back to our projects full energy and motivation.

Group shot!

I hope to see you guys soon!

Hugs to everybody,