On Christmas Eve, at our home in the 1950s and 60s, holiday preparations had reached "the moment". The shopping, praying, christmas tree and stunning outdoor decorations and carolling and wrapping and cooking were done, in preparation for the celebration and commemoration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. However you experience the Source of All Life and the Ages of Mankind, it is symbolically and actually very right, to celebrate the symbol of the arrival of new lights to mankind and his world.
At our home, it was Christmas Eve and so it was all about the New Arrival at our manger and the one at Church!
We three children became rapt with what was to come. Just now, we were focused on the Nativity Scene arranged atop the shiny mahogany RCA music center, our musical Father's pride and joy. This sight and the sounds of the spirited records or radio holiday music, and our endless sing-alongs, glows in memory even 60 years later.
I am there again, seeing in mind's eye and with my heart - I see the popular innovation of the time - a cotton mat for snow! With that as base for the holy landscape, next, we'd set the wooden stable, at a far corner. Next was connecting the lighted star at top. Radiating from the manger corner were now set the icons , with perfectly-formed features in plaster and paint, all facing the empty manger/crib. For days, we'd visited the scene with a prayer and anticipation, longing for the missing icon, and then a quick prayer and on we'd go.
Finally! It was Christmas Eve and sunset. Mother calls, thrilled and hushed and prayerful - "It is time!" ! We formed the family procession. Lights out, except for those from the Christmas Tree decorations. With Big Eyes and "Shhhh!' we would tiptoe upstairs at our Mother's heels, developing the holy moment! Removing something from a corner of the cedar chest , Mother turned, smiling and holy, as her cupped hands opened to reveal a box. Opening the box, a lace handkerchief bundle would be withdrawn, and opening the top folds of the handkerchief...
Lo! the tiny Infant Jesus figure was displayed to our delight !
Struggling to be still and reverent, in our excitement, we continued our family procession , quietly down the stairs in single file, behind Mother, to the site of the Manger scene. Then one of us - chosen to bear the infant that year - would receive it from Mother and we'd gather around the creche to place, at last, lovingly, the infant figure into the manger !
Wesoly Swiąt !
A child is born!
A Saviour Who Is Christ the Lord!
The Little Lord Jesus Lays Down His Sweet Head!
We would linger there at the feet of the lovely little Nativity scene, lost in love, and pray and sing one of the lullabies to Jesus!
- and then on to Midnight Mass to share the news with friends and neighbors !
Through most of our childhood, the church was one that had been founded to help new Polish-Americans. The culture and music at the holidays still shared the wishes in three languages; English, Latin and Polish!
The magic of the moment culminating in the formal declaration of Christ's birth - the miracle and mystery of it ! All is calm, hushed and bright, as the choir repeats what Mary sings- the lullaby to Jesus, or "lulajze" to her new baby: Sleep Little Jesus!
Here are the lyrics in English and Polish for you,
Link to this video of the "Lulajze" performed by Choir and Philharmonic of Krakow, Poland
, with best wishes for the best Winter Holiday ever, however your beliefs inspire you to express it!
1. Sleep, little Jesus, my little pearl! While Mama Comforts you, tender, caressing!
CHORUS: Lullaby, little one, in loving arms lying,Guarding my darling and stilling Thy crying!
2. When Thou awakenest, Jesus, my treasure, Raisins and almonds I have for Thy pleasure. Chorus: Lullaby, Little One, in loving arms lying / Guarding my darling and stilling Thy crying! 3. High in the heavens a lovely star sees us, But like the shining sun, my little Jesus. Chorus: Lullaby, Little One, in loving arms lying / Guarding my darling and stilling Thy crying!
In the Native Polish
Lulajze Jezuniu (the "Lullaby to Jesus" in Polish)
1.Lulajze Jezuniu, moja perelko! Lulaj ulubione me piescidelko.
Chorus: Lulajze, Jezuniu, lulajze, lulaj! A Ty Go, Matulu, W placzu utulaj.
2. Dam ja Ci stodkiego, Jezu, cukierku, Rodzenkow, migdalow co mam upudetku.
Chorus :Lulajze, Jezuniu, lulajze, lulaj! A Ty Go, Matulu, W placzu utulaj
3. Lulajze przyjema oczom Gwiazdeczko, Lulaj najsliczniejsze swiata Sloneczko.
Chorus: Lulajze, Jezuniu, lulajze, lulaj! A Ty Go, Matulu, W placzu utulaj
There are more stanzas,depending on the translation.
The famous Polish composer and pianist, FREDERICH CHOPIN adapted it for his "Scherzo in B minor, Opus 20." Mrs. Casimir Wierzynski, wife of Chopin's finest biographer, made a literal English prose translation for Henry W. Simon, and he paraphrased it into English verse.
I wish to thank all for the special Christmas moments,and the desire to share them with others in a mode that will make them wish to do the same. Wesoly Swiat!
For and from My Mother, - still with us for Holidays 2017- and 92 in March - Albina Filanowski Backiel Smith Duffy, who inspires us always, and loves us all, every one !
...and also dedicated to my fellow Polish choir members from Grammar School days, and all the mystically special Christmases we shared and helped to create!
Treasured iconic true story, lyrics, link to music video and history - first posted 2003