The Connection Runners + [puppies and rainbows]

My Big Fat Polish Thanksgiving

When people ask me what my plans are for Thanksgiving, I start by smiling and taking a deep breath because I'm about to explain just how Thanksgiving goes when you are one of 180+ members in a huge Polish family.

While I'd like to simply say that I enjoy my turkey and stuffing in a banquet-style hall surrounded by nearly 100 of those family members, the raised eyebrows I get in response to these initial explanations demand sharing further detail.

So then, I start at the beginning - the family newspaper - and go from there.

You see, in early fall, my aunt Marybeth, who's Editor-in-Chief and sole writer of our family newspaper, The Selasky Sun, sends out the annual Turkey Day menu.

Menu responsibilities are divided among two main host families (headed up by two of the 15 Selasky brothers and sisters of whom my Nana, Elly, is one) and other various family members, and they include items such as:

  • Four turkeys
  • 10 dozen rolls
  • A few pounds of butter
  • 2 different kinds of stuffing
  • Two large trays of kapusta (egg noodle/sauerkraut dish)
  • A partridge in a pear tree (Just kidding. Even if we had that on the menu, we'd need several of dozen of them to feed all 80-100 of us.)
Anyone not assigned to a main menu item is supposed to bring a dessert to dinner. Thus, we end up with a buffet table full of sweets, including a box of kruschiki, a lightly fried Polish cookie-thing dusted with powdered sugar.

While waiting for dinner to be served, different family factions visit with one another. I usually sit at my table, sipping a cold beer Coke Zero (this year), and try to remember which little kid belongs to which parent and how I'm related to them all. This year I scored an all-time high when I didn't recognize my teenage cousin Chris, who literally grew about 3 feet in the last year; for the first hour, I was positive he was one of my female cousin's boyfriends.

Yeah. Those kinds of things happen when you're one of nearly 200.

Then the food happens. It looks like this:

Two or three 8-foot buffet tables act as vehicles for the plethora of chafing dishes holding hot turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, ham, and gravy, and there's usually enough food to feed a small country.

It looks a little soup kitchen-esque, but I'm pretty sure I didn't spy any bums in line this year.

When we're all stuffed to our Polish gills, it's time for the family meeting, which is led by the family president. Yep, I just said family president.

Our current president is cousin Ken.

Ken's doing very well in the polls lately. I read in the Detroit Free Press that his approval ratings are in the high 90's these days. With his diplomacy, there's a good chance he'll win the family nomination and subsequent election to yet another 2-year term.

(If you notice, Ken's meeting agenda is written on a paper table placemat, a key sign of a quality president - no need for professional speech writers here!)

A very important part of the family meeting is the 50/50 drawing. Yep, I just said 50/50 raffle, those contests you generally enter at Friday night high school football games or community festivals.

Our raffle serves as both a fundraiser for our Turkey Dinner and a donation for Friendship House, a Detroit-based missionary society dedicated to providing assistance to local families in need.

My great-aunt Rose is the lady to see if you want to get in on the raffle action.

Besides getting your hands on a share of the loot, winners can also score donated prizes like cookbooks, t-shirts, and aprons. A few years ago, I even won a personalized version of Monopoly called "Selaskyopoly". It's just like Monopoly, only much more Polish.

At some point, we round up groups of people for annual photos. Since there are so many of us, we have to be photographed in categories. This year, folks gathered were organized by age by all of the women in the family.

Can you spot LBA in the Under 40 Women photo?

Somewhere around 5:30, folks begin to pack up leftovers and ship out for the evening. I more or less rolled out this year, very thankful for my maternity stretch-waist jeans.

While it's probably pretty strange to imagine sitting among such a large Thanksgiving dinner, I feel the same way when someone tells me they'll be heading to an aunt's house where they'll eat (gasp!) a single, 14-pound turkey, maybe a bit of potatoes, and some dinner rolls. I wonder who will lead their family meeting, or if they'll have a 50/50 raffle, or if they can easily name all of their infant and toddler cousins.

What interesting traditions does your family have when it comes to the holidays?