The Day of the Dead

by Lorraine Grochowska-Kiefer

As the sunny warm days of September and October turn into November, the trees are more stark and the landscape becomes bare against the dramatic November sky. The eve of All Saint's Day begins the preparation for the "day of the dead" or the day when many Poles visit the cemetery to pay respect to their dead family members. In the old days, loaves of bread were baked to give to the beggars so that they would pray for the dead. Today, families attend Mass, visit the graves, and take flowers, but many still light candles at the grave site. Some cemeteries are all aglow as the sun sets that day.

This time of year often finds very colorful skies, especially as the chill of the late afternon sunset hour approaches. I love to forage around the garden, finding the last of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers on warm November afternoons. By then the grass has dried out and there are fewer spider webs. Usually the few beets, parsley, stray beans (if there has not been a heavy frost) can be put in the soup pot. A handful of lentils, barley, split peas, carrots, potatoes, and onions all make this autumn soup a warming treat on chilly days.

Now also is the time to be sure housplants are all in and on a sunny window sill. When I visited Poland, I found that myrtle and scented geraniums were often found on many sills. These plants both respond well to a sunny window, with a cool evening temperature.

Upon inquiring, I found out that the leaves of the scented geranium are often put in hot steamy water and inhaled for cold and sinus problems. Of course we know that myrtle is used in wedding wreaths and bouguets. My friends Dolores and Ed Misiewicz are using small myrtle plants as favors at their daughter's wedding. I am happy that she is following an old Polish custom by giving out this Polish wedding herb. I love both plants and enjoy these fragrant beauties on my own window sills.

As the days darken and the frost takes more of the garden, our thoughts turn to making warm soups and breads, and starting to think about holiday preparations and other indoor projects.

Here is a Honey Cake recipe I got in Poland from the late Pan Szmid's niece. Cream 1 cup sugar with 4 egg yolks (save whites and beat till stiff). Add 1 cup honey and 1 cup cream and beat well. Stir in 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 tsp each of cinnamon and cloves. Fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in a greased and floured bundt or tube pan at 350 degrees for about 45 to 55 minutes (test, as each oven may be different).


written by Lorraine Grochowsa Kiefer

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Lorraine is the host of Triple Oaks Nursery & Herb Garden. Visit her website and shop

Check more articles devoted to day of the dead and available in Polish Culture Site: All Saints' Day in Poland, November 1st & Polish Folk Traditions - All Souls' Day.Zaduszki & Dziady

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