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The Story of St. Nicholas

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Today as a part of our Christmas series of emails, we invite you to read the story of St. Nicholas below, and then to make your own St. Nick candy bar wrappers. Candy bars make great stocking stuffers, gifts for co-workers, teachers and classmates! To receive our weekly Christmas emails, sign up here.

The Story of St. Nicholas
Written by Samantha Wallace

These days, especially in the West, the day after Thanksgiving marks the official start of the Christmas season (although we’ve all seen Christmas decorations going up for sale as soon as Halloween ends). But for Polish people, including the Polish diaspora living around the world, nothing says the holidays are here like St. Nicholas Day (Dzien Świętego Mikołaja) on December 6.

The day is the feast day of the revered Christian saint, who – through his reputation for protecting and giving gifts to children – is generally acknowledged as the inspiration for Santa Claus. However, Nicholas is still separately celebrated for his own merits and contributions to Christianity, especially in Poland, which has a strong Christian background.

Born during the 3rd century in a village called Patara – in an area of what is now Turkey, but at the time was part of Greece – Nicholas was a devout Christian from a young age, at a time when Christianity was still in its infancy and was still being strongly persecuted in some areas of Greece and eastern Europe. He came from a rich background and inherited sizable wealth when his parents died while he was still a young man, but after his parents’ deaths, he used the wealth he inherited from them to, as Jesus proclaimed, “sell what you own and give the money to the poor” – especially to children. This is, most likely, where the idea of Santa Claus/St. Nicholas giving gifts to children began.

Nicholas’ faith and devotion to the poor earned him love and respect from the Christian community, and he was made Bishop of Myra in Lycia in 317 A.D. Due to the turbulent religious times, he was imprisoned and then exiled under the direction of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, but he was eventually released and attended the pivotal Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., which brought together leading figures in Christianity in order to discuss and solve issues about the early years of the faith.

There are many tales told of Nicholas, most miraculous in nature, about his generosity and protection of children. One story tells of a poor man with three daughters; in older times, a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value, known as a dowry, and the larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, however, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were destined to be sold into slavery – but mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home, providing the needed dowries.

The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes for gifts from St. Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold, which is why three gold balls – often represented as oranges – are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas.

Another story tells of three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens when a wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered them, hiding their remains in a pickling vat. It so happened that Bishop Nicholas, traveling along the same route, stopped at the same inn, and in the night he dreamed of the crime, got up, and summoned the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed to God, the three boys were restored to life.

Nicholas died on December 6, 343 A.D., and he has been recognized as a saint since long before the Catholic Church began regulating canonization procedures in the late 10th century; the Roman emperor Justinian I built a church to honor St. Nicholas in Constantinople as early as the 6th century. The celebration of his life and legacy continue to this day, with Poles commemorating it in their own unique way.

The festivities begin the night before, when stockings are hung by the fireplace in hopes that they will be filled with nuts, tangerines or oranges (emblematic of the gold balls said to have been given by St. Nicholas to the poor man’s daughters), and small gifts by the Saint. In older times, freshly cleaned and polished shoes were set out for these gifts.

Nicholas is said to descend from Heaven that night with an angel helper and travel by sleigh (another inspiration for Santa Claus) to visit homes. It is said that he would give out the small gifts and oranges, and often pierniki, saint-shaped cookies made with honey and spices, as well – the making of which is still a tradition in many areas of Poland. Another older tradition held on feast day was when small boys would dress up as bishops and beg alms for the poor. Old or now, these cherished traditions ensure that the selfless legacy of St. Nicholas will continue in Polish homes around the world.

Polish-American Heritage Month

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October is Polish-American Heritage Month! 2019 marks the 411th anniversary of the arrival of the first Polish settlers in America on Oct. 1, 1608. On Wednesdays this month, we will be sharing a variety of cultural content for our Members to enjoy. Today, we invite you to try these recipes (click to download) using a Polish cuisine staple, kielbasa!

For remaining weeks, please like our page on Facebook, or join our email list.

Soldier’s Day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa

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Once again, the Polish Falcons of America has been invited to participate in the annual Soldier’s Day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa. This solemn celebration will be held on Sunday, August 18. It is organized by the community of former Polish soldiers living in the United States and Canada.

This year, the celebration will focus on the 100th Anniversary of the return of the Blue Army from France to Poland. Over 20,000 volunteers from America, mostly Members of the Polish Falcons of America, served in this Army.

The program for the day is as follows:

  • 10 a.m. — Breakfast at the Pilgrims’ Center cafeteria
  • 11 a.m. — Laying of wreaths on the grave of past Polish Falcons National President, Dr. Teofil Starzynski, and by the monument “The Avenger” at the Veterans Cemetery
  • 11:30 a.m. — Celebration before the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (National Anthems, Taps Bugle Call, Rifle Salute, Review of Troops and Parade.)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Holy Mass
  • 1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. — Presentations by distinguished guests
  • 2 p.m. — Lunch in cafeteria

I am asking for as many Falcon Members to attend as possible. If you plan to attend please let me know as soon as possible so we can let the organizers know what to expect. Please contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.

Czolem,

Timothy L. Kuzma
President & CEO
Polish Falcons of America

2019 Polish Falcons Trip to Poland

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September 30 – October 11, 2019

Early Bird Discount: Only $2950 if registered before March 31!

Direct flight to Warsaw from your choice of:

  • New York – JFK International Airport
  • Chicago – O’Hare International Airport

We will visit:

Warszawa, Toruń, Łódź, Wrocław, Zakopane, Kraków, Wieliczka, Oświęcim

Price: $3,100 Single Supplement: $799

Registration will open on March 4, 2019.

Contact us at 800-535-2071 or ejean@polishfalcons.org.

Learn more at polishfalcons.org/poland-trip.

Explorers’ Summer: Polish Language & Culture Camp

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The Polish American Congress Charitable Foundation is again sponsoring a cultural program for American teenagers of Polish descent.

This year’s program is a 2-week trip to Poland with activities run through the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

The PACCF will be sending 25 participants, ages 13 – 15. Members of the Polish Falcons are invited to participate. In order to allow as many students as possible to attend, previous participants will not be eligible.

The group will depart from Chicago on July 6, 2019 (Saturday) and will return on July 20, 2019 (Saturday).

All participants must get to and from the Chicago airport on their own for travel to Poland. Participants will be chaperoned during their flights to and from Poland. There will be 24-hour supervision by qualified education professionals for the duration of their stay in Poland.

The program will include 45 hours of language instruction provided by teachers trained to work with young people. Sightseeing tours of Krakow, Zakopane, Bochnia Salt Mine, and Ogrodzieniec Castle are planned. Other activities in the program include sports, dance workshops, and film showings. A language course diploma will be given to each student by the University.

The cost for the trip is $3050. This includes round-trip airfare from Chicago, hotels, meals, transport, and entry fees to venues. The PACCF will pay $2150 while the participants will pay the remaining $900.

PFA Members who would like to take this trip are required to pay $450, while PFA will subsidize the other $450 for up to five Members to cover their participant portion of the total cost.

If there are more than five PFA Youth Members who send in their registrations, a drawing will be held at National Headquarters to choose our five participants.  

Interested families are asked to complete and send their application (click to download) with a deposit check of $450 (non-refundable) to: Polish Falcons of America, PACCF Poland Trip, 381 Mansfield Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15220.

Applications must be postmarked no later than March 15.

If after PFA’s five participants are chosen there is still room available through the PACCF, those youth can still participate but without the subsidy from PFA.

Questions may be directed to Druhna Christine Puskar at 800-535-2071 or by email to cpuskar@polishfalcons.org.

Download Application

Download Itinerary

Pittsburgh Screening of The Gorals

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From the dawn of history, on the highest peaks of the Carpathian mountains, set against the elements, there lives a forgotten people — The Gorals. Possessing a love of freedom, a connection with nature, and kept ancient traditions, they are one of the most unique ethnic groups in all of Europe. Experience the passion and craftsmanship of the shepherd, lumberjack, bagpipe master, and wheelwright as they practice their occupations, not just for the survival of their families, but also for the love of these arts that weave together the fabric of their remote communities. When confronted with harsh storms, wild animals and difficult terrain in the most inaccessible Carpathian mountain range, along with long days of hard, sometimes dangerous work, the spirit and character of the Gorals stands unshaken.

But, another threat looms even more ominously….

Outside of the mountains everything in the modern world is changing rapidly. Is the culture of the Carpathian highlanders sustainable, or could these be the final times for these people and their lifestyle?

View the film, The Gorals, on Sunday, January 27, at 2 p.m. at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in Pittsburgh, Pa. For tickets, visit https://ostatnigorale.pl/tickets/.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales benefit The University of Pittsburgh Endowed Fund for Polish Studies.

Polish Falcons of America is pleased to sponsor this film screening.

Christmas Gift Tags

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Christmas is almost here! Have you started wrapping? In need of gift tags? We have you covered. Click here to download two pages of tags (16 different designs) for free! Print the pages (preferably on cardstock), cut out the tags of your choice, punch holes, and attach to your gifts with tape, ribbon or twine.

#GivingTuesday 2018

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Preserve Our Polish Heritage!

This #GivingTuesday, November 27, support the Polish Falcons Heritage Foundation.

#GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. Millions of people have come together to support and champion the causes they believe in.

We have two days for getting deals – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On #GivingTuesday, we have a day for giving back.

Together, people are creating a new ritual for our annual calendar.

Every act of generosity counts, and each means even more when we give together. #GivingTuesday includes people of all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. Together, millions of people demonstrate our common capacity to give.

Click here to donate to the Polish Falcons Heritage Foundation.

Your support is greatly appreciated and provides the means necessary for us to continue hosting workshops, sponsoring programs and organizing events that preserve our Polish heritage, and help those of Polish descent discover, explore and understand their heritage.