Life in Poland

Happy New Year!

Happy 2010 everyone!image

And what is a New Year’s Eve celebration without fireworks? I can say thanks to all my neighbors for treating us to a spectacular fireworks display last night lasting about 25 minutes. As the clock struck midnight and the fireworks began, Rosie woke up frightened by the noise. We went to the bedroom, lay in our bed together with her and watched the bursts of color through the skylight window. Lizzie, true to form, didn’t stir even a bit. She’s a deep, deep sleeper.

image We could even see the fireworks from Rynek/Market Square not because we are so close, but because we are so far away. We used to live very close to the Market Square, and we spent New Year’s Eve in Rynek. My first New Year’s Eve in the Market Square, I saw a girl get a firework caught in the hood of her jacket and catch on fire. She got it off quickly, thank goodness, and her friends stomped it out.

The fireworks that caught the girl’s jacket on fire were not from the City’s official display, but they were from a partier’s private stash. That’s because fireworks are legal in Poland. Well, they are legal on certain holidays at least and you can buy12302009 them in the supermarket or at other stands set up especially at this time of year.

What’s the big deal? Well, for me, a Pennsylvania girl, it is a big deal because fireworks are illegal in the state of PA. The 2 biggest “firework” holidays in the US are New Year’s Eve and Indepimageendence Day (the 4th of July) and if you want to celebrate in PA you’ll have to make due with sparklers or caps. Not exactly the kind of celebration that you had in mind? Well, you can turn to the black market, but remember that if you don’t get caught buying or transporting the fireworks, you are bound to get caught when you set them off. You don’t think so? Really? Well, just ask my father.

My father is one of eight children and he is a fun-loving kind of a guy. He also loves to do whatever his children and now grandchildren want. He is big on family get-togethers and one 4th of July he planned a huge BBQ at our house which is situated on a mountain deep in the forest. He bought the fireworks from his brother who operated a small local grocery and had some image connections in the underground firework distribution network. My uncle was once fined for selling fireworks at his shop and his inventory was confiscated. So, at dusk on a dry July evening, my father and his brothers started setting off fireworks. My sister, my cousins and I were enthralled and amazed. It was the best thing we had ever seen until one burst of color and sound caught the top of a tree on fire. And then another and another. The trees were pretty tall and our water pressure pretty low as we lived on a mountain so there was no chance for us to extinguish the fire ourselves. My father called the fire department and a fire truck, siren and all, raced to our house. We thought that this was better than the actual fireworks. The firefighters put out the fire and gave my father a real talking to. We were waiting for the fire chief to write out a ticket for my father, but when the fire chief saw my mother’s face he said that my father had punishment enough waiting for him and gave him only a warning.

And that’s the problem with fireworks in the hands of private citizens. I should mention that my father has a lot of guns too which are totally legal in PA. Oh, the trouble you can get into with a gun. Anyhow, I know that everything in the US is regulated with ridiculous warning labels on every product and that maybe we are killjoys, but I’m waiting this January 1st morning to see on the news how many kids blew their fingers off or worse last night with the fireworks. Add alcohol to the mix and disaster is sure to happen.

And it is not just kids. At Christmas 2 years ago when we were shopping for a Christmas tree, a father and son were throwing fire crackers off their balcony at us. Lizzie was 2 years old and as the fire crimage ackers burst right next to her, she screamed in fear and we looked all around to see where they were coming from. We were shocked to see it was an adult and shocked even more as he prepared the next set and threw them down on us. Stupidity knows no bounds.

But stupidity, alcohol, and fireworks aren’t all bad. Last year January 1st morning, I found 50 złoty in the snoimagew outside our apartment building. It was probably lost when someone was taking out matches from their pocket to light fireworks. Someone told me that it was an extremely good omen and set the tone for 2009 suggesting I would have a rich year. Unfortunately, as far as money goes, they couldn’t have been more wrong, but I feel blessed nonetheless.

I wish you a happy 2010 full of blessings more than you can count!

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