Research into the Polish word for grandmother yields a long list of words, including babcia, babciu, babunia, babula, babusia, busia, babka and baba. Many of these are, however, not regarded as authentically Polish.
The authentic Polish name for grandmother is babcia, used when speaking about one's grandmother. It is pronounced "bob-cha" or "bop-cha." Babciu is a term of endearment used when speaking to one's grandmother.
It is pronounced "bob-chew" or "bop-chew." Babunia is another term of endearment that is properly used when speaking to children about their grandmother, as in "Do you want to go see your babunia?" It is pronounced "bob-oo-nee-uh."
Poland has a large population of Jews, Italians, Greeks, Russians, Germans, Ukrainians and other ethnicities. Some of the "Polish" terms for grandmother may derive from their languages. For example, babusia may be derived from the Russian babushka. Busia may be a shortened form of babusia. Babula may be a variant of babulya, which is a Russian endearment for a grandmother.
Baba and babka are common grandmother nicknames. Native speakers say that babka and baba are derisive words for old women. These terms may be tolerated, however, from the mouths of babes.
Polish Family Culture
Poles are expected to marry young, have children and stay with a single spouse for a lifetime. The traditional family unit in Poland consists of a husband, wife, children and the husband's parents. Multi-generational households are common in Poland, although such composite households are less typical than they used to be.
In urban households, when both parents work, the grandparents often take on child care.
Poland is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, with around three-fourths of the population being very observant. Many Poles have a strong emotional connection to the church, which they see as an ally in tough times. Poland is also very ethnically homogeneous. These two factors may contribute to the country's reputation for clinging to the old ways. Folk medicine is still practiced, and the population keeps traditional folklore alive.
Gender equality has been slow to come to Poland. Women are under-represented in top-paying jobs. Women who work outside the home typically still do the majority of household chores.
Polish Holidays and Festivals
Many holidays and festivals are celebrated in Poland. Most holidays are religious in origin. Festivals provide fun for locals and tourists alike.
Easter is celebrated in Poland from Palm Sunday to the day after Easter Sunday, which is called Wet Monday. On Wet Monday, boys drench girls by pouring containers of water on them.
Christmas Eve, or Wiglia, is a time for families to gather and for any family rifts to be healed. A traditional belief is that whatever happens on Christmas Eve will be repeated for the rest of the year, so a harmonious Christmas Eve will lead to a harmonious year.
Following midnight mass, Christmas is celebrated with a feast, often featuring roast goose.
Polish grandmothers might make these dishes for holiday gatherings:
- Polish gingerbread cookies, cut into beautiful shapes, are traditional treats passed out by Swiety Mikolaj, or St. Nicholas, on Dec. 6.
- Stuffed cabbage rolls, called gołąbki, are an everyday favorite but might also be served for Christmas Eve, which usually features meatless dishes.
- Christmas dinner usually features ham, duck or goose and Polish kielbasa.
- King cake is served on Jan. 6, the Feast of the Three Kings, also known as Epiphany or Twelfth Night.