Sophie Hodorowicz Knab's book about Polish folklore entitled Polish Customs, Tradition and Folklore should be recommended to all interested in the traditions of their Polish ancestors. It is a "must read" book for these who are want to learn about Polish culture. Reading of this book is a real pleasure since it is full of interesting stories about Polish folklore. It is also a great reference book for somebody who is looking for an inspiration how to prepare Polish Christmas, Easter or any other Polish holiday.
I was pleased to learn about tradition that relates to my namesday, that means a day which is devoted to my first name, Jagoda. July 2nd according to Polish calendar is called a day of Blessed Virgin of the Berries (Matka Boska Jagodna). Jagoda - my first name means blueberry, berry in English. On that day the first fruit and wild berries would be ripened marking the end of scarcity of food so common among peasants in late spring. According to the legend in that day the heavenly mother gathers all little children who are already in heaven around her and gives them berries to eat - also their mothers, who are still on the earth are allowed to eat berries, not earlier than this day. This tradition is almost forgotten in present Poland, although the namesday Jagoda (blueberry) is still in calendar. Thanks to Sophie I learnt why my namesday is in July.
Since many customs are related to the seasons of the year and the majority of holidays are arranged according to the calendar, the author naturally arranged Polish customs on the month-by-month basis starting with December to embrace the whole traditions of Advent and Christmas. The only exception is the birth and death customs, which are included in the two last chapters of the book since they are unrelated to any specific time of the year. The broad scope of the book allows the author to show traditions which are still alive and these which are already gone. The author incorporates a variety of customs and habits from different regions of Poland showing similarities and differences between different Polish provinces. She also stresses deeply religious aspects of many Polish holidays - especially a cult to Virgin Mary.
Sophie Hodorowicz Knab was unable to find sufficient information about Polish traditions and culture in English so she had to start searching through Polish resources. The effect of her studies is this book, which according to my knowledge is the biggest collection of Polish customs and traditions addressed to the English-speaking audience. The real asset of this book is the fact that Sophie's uses both languages - Polish and English with equal ease. The names of all feasts and holidays are given in English and Polish as well as all proverbs, texts of songs or poems included in the book. The book also contains the map and information about the Polish ethnographic regions as well as the pronunciation guide for Polish language, brief glossary of terms and the index.
The author's primary interests were pharmacology, herbs and folk medicine. Therefore the book contains a broad section devoted to Polish herbs, trees, nature in general and the medicine and their connections to Polish tradition. The current edition is also expanded to embrace a chapter about traditional Polish games and past-times for children - since many readers were asking for it.
I highly recommend this book.
Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator), Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore