Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas shopping

I do not like shopping. I do not like shopping in the US. I do not like shopping in Poland. I do not like shopping for you. I do not like shopping for me. I do not like shopping for groceries and I especially do not like shopping for Christmas. If you can relate then you are probably a man or you have worked retail during the holiday season. If you have a shopaholic in your family and you’d like to cure them, then a holiday retail job will do the trick.

The Christmas shopping frenzy starts from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year. If you work retail in the USA that means the store has to be decorated by this day and the Christmas Muzak starts. You may even be asked (that should read told) to wear a cute (that should read totally asinine) elf or Santa hat. As an employee, you must be at work extra early and stay extra late. You must never forget to offer an additional product or two, ask if a gift receipt is needed, offer to wrap the gift and wish everyone a generic “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays”. By the time Christmas actually rolls around, your retail job will have slowly leeched out of all your Christmas cheer and have turned you into the biggest Grinch ever. On the bright side: Congratulations, you are cured of your shopaholism forever.

I don’t know if Poland has got something like Black Friday, but if it does, I think it was yesterday. I unfortunately visited the mall yesterday with Lizzie and Rosie in tow. I normally avoid the mall on the weekends as any weekend at the mall in Poland looks like Black Friday in the US, but I had to buy contact lenses and of course my kids wanted to come along. As we entered the mall, we all stopped dead in our tracks. There were kids everywhere. Some were decorating Christmas balls. Some were decorating gingerbread cookies. Others were playing in the play area I call the kid zoo. There was Christmas music and there were Christmas decorations. A Santa Claus and his helpers were passing out candy to all the boys and girls. My kids immediately took off for the “zoo”, ripping off their coats and hats and even their shoes as they went. Luckily, Misiu sat with them as I did my shopping weaving among the crowds to get to the contact lens booth and back. Then we had to convince the kids that it was time to go home.

It was so busy at the mall because December 6th is Santa Claus Day in Poland. We have a bit of a problem with that because we celebrate a more American Christmas and Santa Claus visits us on Christmas Eve when we’re sleeping. In the past, we were able to hide the fact that Santa comes to kids in Poland on December 6th from our own kids because they were so small. They are still small but now that Lizzie goes to Pre-school she knows about everything. Heck, they are having a Santa Claus party today at school. We devised a story that on Santa Claus Day you leave a letter to Santa under your pillow and Santa comes to take it and leaves you a chocolate. Then Santa selects something from your list and brings it on Christmas Eve. Genialny! Our plan was going well until we visited Babcia and Dziadek. As it turns out, Santa Claus visited Babcia and Dziadek and left a huge bag of sweets for each of my girls. My girls haven’t eaten anything except candy for two days.

Despite my dislike for shopping, my Christmas shopping is pretty much finished. Because of my job I am often near some mall with a few minutes to spare. Because of that, I was able to complete my Christmas shopping bit by bit keeping track of all the prices in the different stores and buying when the price was right. Yes, I am one of those moms. (Uwaga: frugal mother’s defensive rant) And I’ll have you know that I was able to get the fire station Lizzie so desperately wants for 200 PLN at Auchan while it was 230 PLN at Carrefour and 250 PLN at Tesco.

Another reason I am pretty much done with my shopping is because Lizzie is under the impression that you can get only one gift for Christmas. We have never told her that and she has always received more, but let’s not fix what ain’t broken. I will not spoil the Christmas surprise for you but each child will get a present from us (Santa), a present from Babcia and Dziadek, a present from Grandma and Grandpa, a stocking and 2 presents that they have to share12082009(001). Adults do not exchange gifts in my husband’s family but the girls wanted to get something for us and for their grandparents. The girls have got their father underpants. I have suggested socks for myself. Dziadek is getting an exercise ball for his hand (pictured here, that’s not an egg) that I bought today at the Senior Shop and I think Babcia is going to get her favorite coffee. The girls’ nanny will get an extra nice gift probably from Sephora.

Here’s what I would buy if I had more money or if I thought somebody might actually use it.

12082009The big thing here is a universal remote XXL (35 PLN). I would buy it for Dziadek (aka my father-in-law) but his problem is not the size of the buttons but just the sequence of buttons in turning on and off the TV. Mind you, he will not tell you that he needs help. He will just sit in front of the black TV screen and inform you that boxing starts in 5 minutes. The other smaller things here are cell phones. They have huge easy to see and press buttons and on the back of the black one there is an SOS button that calls successively 3 selected numbers. It costs 275 PLN.


Whenever or if-ever we finish our house, I am totally buying this beanbag chair (300 PLN). Lizzie fell in love with it and said it would be a good idea to buy it and to also buy her a soccer uniform like the guys on TV.

PS If Santa Claus comes to the children of Poland on December 6th, then what happens on Christmas Eve? In Poland on Christmas Eve, there is a very nice Christmas Eve supper. In my husband’s family, they sent the children to the window after supper to look for the Christmas star. When they came back, their presents had mysteriously appeared. In some families, the star brings the gift, in others baby Jesus brings the gift and in some Santa brings the gifts again.

PS 2 What are gift receipts? This a receipt (paragon) from the shop for a purchase with all the information you need to return the gift but without the price. You can include it with the gift you are giving and if the person doesn’t like it or it doesn’t fit, they can take it back to the shop. To all of you Polish shoppers who can almost never successfully return anything to a shop (sorry, store policy), you should know that returning stuff is like a national past-time in America…something like mushroom picking in Poland ;)


Pam said...

I love this part: "they sent the children to the window after supper to look for the Christmas star". I, in America, have never heard of that tradition before. ... Thanks for sharing your experiences in Poland. It is fun to hear what you're learning in your new home.


Alli said...

I just happend to come by your blog quite by accident. Hmm I thought anyone who names their blog "Keilbasa stories" got my attention. I am Polish-Canadian looking forward to be reading more of your blog.....


Chris said...

Pam- I am preparing a post with my mother-in-law's menu for Christmas Eve supper. I hope that you'll find that interesting. It involves 12 dishes.

Alli-Thanks for joining us. I chose the name Kielbasa Stories at the suggestion of my friend Big Apple Ewa. I was a little worried about attracting some perverted buggers with that name, but so far so good. Have you ever visited Poland?

Scorpio said...

Hello and Greetings from Małopolskie, south-east Poland! I read your reply to one of my comments on 'Polishforums' and saw that we both own farms in Poland. That's awesome! Your blog is nice and keep up the great work!

Chris said...

Greetings Scorpio-
Thanks for the kind words. On a cold and sad day like today, I really needed the vote of confidence. My farm is a long way away from being finished. What about yours? We had big dreams at the start but it is so much more expensive than we had planned.

Scorpio said...

It's really cold (and white) here this Thursday morning. Snow flurries continue to trickle down.

My house and barn on the farm have been 95% renovated. The front porch and backdoor deck still need to be finished on the house, and doors / windows are needed for the barn. It's a lot of work and yes, now it is very expensive. Only 6 years ago, one was able to build anything with US dollars for almost nothing. That has changed. I've got over 10 hectares in Małopolskie. In my village is a nice ski area, so I'll be going there soon since the white stuff is here.

I have a blog on blogspot as well that I've never really followed up on. It's time for me to start making some posts, and then I'll link up with your blog.

Eugene (Scorpio)

Chris said...

Get to working on your blog. That would be great to link up.

Our place is 95% not renovated ;) We have a backdoor with a closed porch added on that I would love to tear down and pit up a deck instead. Our barn is also in need of some serious work but that's for later. We also need to take care of the bricks on our house. They are in pretty bad shape but I hate to stucco them over. We've got about a hectare only so my hat's off to you :) We don't have ski slopes close by but we have a nature preserve and a large network of ponds with great places for bike-riding and bird-watching if you're into that kind of thing.

And that latest gossip is that 2 neighbors on our street got into a fist fight and a lady from the village (my age) just gave birth to her 12th child :)

Scorpio said...

I actually stuccoed the exterior of my house and then painted it over with acrylic paint to keep it waterproof. It seems that placing styrophone on the exterior, stuccoing that and then painting it over is popular in Poland, but I didn't want that. The solid feeling when you knock on the outside walls is preferred for me.

My village is full of gossip! It's very typical. The latest here is that a neighbor has 7 children and now one of her daughters (with a child of her own) has returned to the house. Also, two evenings ago someone's stable and barn burnt down to the ground destroying his tractor, machines, and wagon with it. The suspected cause was an electrical problem.

I'm in the process of getting my blog ready. I'll let you know when that's done. Take care!


Chris said...

You are right about the insulation/stucco thing not feeling solid. One of my friends house looked like the surface of the moon after one really bad hail storm. We just love the look of our red bricks and it would hurt to change it.

Good luck blogging! Keep us informed of your progress.

Eugene Markow said...

Ok, I finally revived my old "Living in Europe" blog. It took some motivation, but I finally made a post today. If you want, you can include my blog as a link to yours.

I'd like to wish you, your husband & children a very Merry Christmas...all the best!

Eugene Markow said...

Oooops, I forgot the blog address:

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris, Ive just discovered your blog.

Im in love with it! Its kinda funny, at least from my point of view: of a Pole looking on an American who struggles, but is trying to get used to the Polish lifestyle (even Polish people get frustrated with it).

You remind me of typical Polish things that are slightly mad (so far I only read a few of your posts, but the very first one about the Religion classes - yeah, I would go mad too! or when you can't return items to the shops + some retail workers can be super rude, etc). Of course, there are good things about Poland too.

I have been living abroad for 10 years and I guess I dont feel as Polish as I used to. I can totally understand the way you see things in your new "home" country.

Im thinking about moving back to my home city at some point in the future, but getting used to the Polish lifestyle/reality and settling down again, probably scares me a little.

Anyway, I find some of your posts amusing and very true at the same time. You must have experienced a huge cultural shock after moving to Poland!

Glad that you survived! I hope that you are happy...

All the best!