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A savory, long-lasting Christmas Eve tradition


Angie and Bill Stanislawski stand at their kitchen table in rural Greenbush on Christmas Eve 2021. For 62 years, the Stanislawski family has continued the tradition of serving chili following Christmas Eve Mass. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Following Christmas Eve Mass, one will find rural Greenbush couple Bill and Angie Stanislawski sitting down for a meal they have enjoyed together for numerous decades.

This year’s Stanislawski Christmas Eve table featured beef and pork sausage— homemade by Bill and his son Shawn— bread, a cranberry-carrot sauce, a dessert with bananas, strawberries and cream cheese, and a tray of different pickled items. It also included a crockpot of chili—filled to the brim— a tradition that has remained in the Stanislawski family for 62 years.

Bill’s mom and dad, Christine and John Stanislawski started this chili tradition, ever since Bill was little. The time of Christmas Mass may have changed over the years, but what happens after that mass has not within the Stanislawski family.

“It’s always been that way. They’ve never changed it,” Bill said. “So every Christmas Eve, we go to church then at four o’clock, and then we always come… home and have our chili and sausage. And then it’s into the living room and it’s present time.”

The Stanislawski family makes this chili throughout the year, but always on December 24.

“She (my wife Angie) does it for me every year,” Bill said.

Angie doesn’t have a recipe for this chili.

“It’s just a chili that I learned how to do from my folks,” Angie said.

She added how it’s the same chili every time she makes it.

“He won’t let me change it,” Angie said. “He said, ‘Whatever you did, keep it.’”

Of this 62-year Stanislawski tradition, Bill and Angie have continued it together for 36 of those.

“You get used to something,” Bill said, “and you look forward to it.”

Their three adult children, Justin, Shawn, and Sara, still also take part in the Christmas Eve tradition, except when Justin and Sara are with their in-laws. Some of Bill’s siblings continue to do it, but maybe not as much. As Bill added, things change over the years— sometimes preventing people from carrying out this tradition.

“But we’ve never let it change,” Bill said with a laugh. “We’re stubborn.”

Angie added, “I don’t mind doing it either. It’s kind of fun that we’ve done it.”

Asked what made this chili unique, Bill mentioned the fact that all the ingredients in the chili— outside the beans— come straight from the Stanislawski family. This includes tomatoes, onions, peppers, and celery from their garden, and the meat from Shawn’s beef cattle.

“Everything that’s in there is pretty much, we raised it,” Bill said. “And I think that’s what makes it special because it’s all our stuff.”

To see the complete story, read the December 29 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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