Author Archives: Hannah Puente

“Kucja” Polish Dessert

The Wigilia, or Christmas Eve Vigil, is the most important holiday for people of Polish heritage. My informant, who is of Polish descent, says the Wiglilia is a celebration that includes many customs. One custom they uphold in her family, is the Wigilia dinner. This dinner is full of traditional Polish dishes, one such dish is a dessert called Kutia or Kucja.

Kutia or Kucja, is a dessert of cooked wheat pudding, flavored with honey, poppy seeds, and nuts. She first experienced this dish when her cousin Mehow was visiting from Poland during Christmas time.

Her family is originally from a rural town in Poland, where they were once peasants. Her cousin told her family that Kucja was a delicacy for peasants on the farms. Honey and poppyseeds were expensive and a specialty to be savored on Wigilia. Wheat and grains which remain a staple of Poland, were the fruits of their hard labor. This is why the dish has a place on the Wigilia table and is especially special to those of peasant heritage.

My informant says the dessert is sweet, but really grainy, not her favorite…

Food is essential to life, not only because our bodies need nutrients, but in the case of farmers, it is their source of an income and survival. The meal in this case, is a very special time to be thankful for what the land has provided and to indulge in its offerings. Kucja is a symbol of hard work and enjoyment at the most honored time of year.

Butterfly Kisses

A butterfly kiss is when someone flutters their eyelashes up against your cheek.

My informant says she learned this from her aunt as a child. She believes it is called a butterfly kiss, because it is such a light, delicate touch, like that of a butterfly landing on one’s hand. It is also a little ticklish.

I agree with her explanation, as well as the motion of fluttering, is a term used on particularly butterflies and eyelashes. A butterfly flutters its wings, and usually a woman flutters her eyelashes. Fluttering is a motion considered very soft, and feminine. So a butterfly kiss is as well. It is a little gesture of innocence and love.

The term butterfly Kisses was also used by country singer Bob Carlsie, in his song “Butterfly Kisses” where he sings about the growth of his daughter and their relationship,

“Oh with all that I’ve done wrong
I must have done something right
To deserve a hug every mornin’
And butterfly kisses at night”

Big X, Little Dot


Big X,

Little dot,

Question mark,

Marks the spot,

Cool breeze,

Tight squeeze,

Now you got the chills!

This, my informant told me, is a rhyme her mother would say when rubbing her back as a child. With the line “Big x” her mother would make an x shape on her back. With “little dot” she would make a little dot…each of the motions correlate with each line of the rhyme, until at the end, my informant would get the chills- or goosebumps- all over.

My informant remembers this feeling very soothing and relaxing, after the chills, she would sink into a nice sleep. My informant  is not sure where the rhyme came from, but her grandmother would do it as well.

I believe it is just a device to get children to calm down and relax, ready for a nap or bed. The rhyme itself doesn’t seem to make any sense, just a combination of random phrases, accompanied by motions, that then cause the chills, a tensing, then complete loosening of the body.

King Cake

My informant was visiting a friend in New Orleans during Mardi Gras when she encountered this tradition.

They were having dinner, when her friend’s mother brought out a very ornate, colorful bunt like cake, with frosting in colors of green, yellow, and purple, the colors of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, which means fat tuesday, is the big celebration, known for illustrious partying, before the season of Lent.

The cake, she was told, is called a king cake. It is called this because it symbolizes a gift given to Baby Jesus during the Epiphany by the three kings. Inside the cake is a baby figurine, representing baby Jesus.

The custom is that whoever gets the slice of cake with a small, plastic baby figurine inside, will have to supply the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party. Apparently the king cake is seen at parties and dinners for about a month, until Lent begins.

My informant is Catholic and celebrates the Epiphany as well, but had never heard of anything like a King cake. Her friend told her it was pretty particular to the southern States who celebrate Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is notorious for being a very over the top, gaudy celebration. This is probably why the cake is so colorful and ornate, reflecting the festive season. The use of a baby figurine is quite interesting, as one encounters it through eating the cake. It sounds like some mother who was tired of hosting parties and supplying all the food came up with this ploy to pass along the responsibilities of being a host!

German Christmas Pickle

A fun, childhood custom that my informant always enjoyed around Christmas time is called the German Christmas Pickle.

Her grandmother is of German descent and learned the custom from her grandparents. The custom is done on Christmas Eve evening. The children will gather around the Christmas tree, which at this point is covered in decorations. Prior to the children gathering around, an adult will have hung up a pickle ornament, which they try to conceal in the tree. The children will then try to spot the pickle ornament first.

The legend is that whomever spots the pickle first will have good luck for the rest of the year.

I asked my informant, “Why a pickle?” and she said she had no idea, but that perhaps because it is green it blends in, making it hardest to spot.

In doing my own analysis, the most observant, the quickest eye, keen of senses, child most likely will be the one to spot it first, getting the good luck. So this pushes children to perhaps work on being observant and sharp of the senses. Of course it could be purely based on luck that a certain child just spots the pickle first. So it is hard to say if it truly has a purpose or not, other than to be a fun, light hearted game.