[I give you readers fair warning: I got collage-happy on this post, simply because I took SO many pictures and liked too many to narrow them down.]

One of the things I've enjoyed so much about living on a small island that attracts expats from around the world is the various multi-national traditions we've observed since arriving. I know I should be used to such variety after living in the U.S. "melting pot" for 26 years, but I now feel more a part of a cultural mosaic than ever before.

This Christmas, R&M hosted Wigilia, a Polish Christmas Eve tradition. 

Our fabulous hosts.
Before the big day, MO sent around a small flyer she prepared giving the holiday's background and typical menu. In short, Wigilia represents the vigil on Christmas Eve when children spot the first star in the heavens, signifying the birth of Christ.

R&M set a beautiful Christmas Eve table. The centerpiece yielded more traditions. The wafers were shared: Each person took a wafer and gave a small piece to each other person at the party, wishing them well in the New Year and expressing thankfulness for their friendship. Shedding all feelings of awkwardness, it was heart-warming to see each person giving of what he had in hand to the others, coupled with hugs and good cheer.

The straw represented the manger in which Jesus was born.
I also loved how a snowman and flip-flop coasters held equal representation on the same table. That's a Caribbean Christmas table setting for you.

Another tradition involved setting an extra place at the table for the Unexpected Guest. This worked well for when one of Santa's reindeer showed up at the door!

MO explained that Wigilia traditionally involves eating "peasant food". She could have fooled me. Our first course was Barscz - beetroot soup. We unanimously agreed it tasted as delicious as it was pretty. I dare anyone to say they refused seconds.

The next course was herring, salmon, and warm rolls. R&M's housemate, CM, was chagrined to find that the entire party enjoyed the herring - fewer leftovers for him. Sorry, CM!  MO's cooking is too good to pass up.

MO saved the best for last. The third course was pierogi - two delicious varieties, with some extra dough and filling to make our own! MO explained the rules of the road:

Then we gave it a go:

R&M had prepared two yummy flavors: Ruskiei - potato & cheese; and Capusta - cabbage & onion.

Another variety surfaced during the DIY portion of the dinner: Supierogi!

Supierogi (an oversized pierogi) = a calzone by another name.
Eating them was the best part. A bit of yogurt and seasoning on the side for dinner, but for dessert, I sneaked into the kitchen and ate them plain. Addicting.

Yep. That Good.
After dinner, MO introduced yet another family tradition - the present game. Each guest brought a wrapped gift and placed it in the center of the table. We took turns rolling a pair of dice, and each time someone rolled doubles, he got to open a present. Once all gifts were opened, we continued rolling the dice for three minutes, and each roll of doubles meant you could choose to swap a gift for yourself or between two others.

I love how here MO is explaining the rules, while it's obvious that NS and LA are busy scheming.

The gifts had to cost $10 or less, so we had a good laugh with each unwrapping. Somehow, this became the coveted gift of the night:

I loved my new pink shades, which are now gracing my ever-so-random (real) Christmas tree.

I don't care that we are all in our 20s and 30s. Playing with toys on Christmas (Eve) never grows old.

Among MO's many talents, she makes her own jewelry. She so sweetly tucked a little blue bag into my hand with these lovelies before the night's end.

We are so blessed by all our friends in Grand Cayman. Thank you, R&M, for including us in your holiday. It made our first island Christmas very special.


  1. What a fun night! Love the pics! What pretty earrings too! The food looks phenom. And you're wearing a scarf, Jenn! Was it a bit chilly? Haha. Oh, and I want that pierogie recipe! Looks yum!

  2. lovely earrings! looks like a fun night - yummy food!