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Polish Christmas Traditions: How Do We Celebrate Christmas In Poland?

Christmas Eve and Christmas are one of the most important family holidays in Poland. There are many traditions and customs during this special holiday. Traditional carp, a Christmas tree with apples, and carols from house to house…

 It is possible to feel the spirit of Christmas in Poland starting from the end of November. Usually, during this time the Christmas markets are getting opened in the cities. You can always buy there some warm food, drinks, a Christmas tree, and handmade souvenirs. This year the Christmas fairs were canceled due to the COVID-19. 

Traditionally, the celebration of Christmas in Poland begins on the evening of December 24th. This day is called Wigilia. Wigilia (Polish pronunciation: [viˈɡilʲa]) is the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland. People are convinced in the fact that in the way they spend Christmas Eve the whole year will pass. Therefore, they try to make this day really fabulous and warm.

In this article, we will describe to you how the traditional Polish family celebrates Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Preparation

On the 24th of December, the Polish house is “on fire”. By “on fire” we mean not physically burning, but actively preparing for the evening celebration including decorating the Christmas tree, preparing traditional meals, cleaning the house, dressing up, etc. All of the dishes should be cooked and housework should be done before the first star appears in the sky. Polish people believe that during the 3 days of celebration no physical work should be done. Polish Wigilia begins with the appearance of the first star, which corresponds to the Star of Bethlehem. Usually, children look outside for the first star on Christmas Eve. 

In a Polish family, Christmas is not complete without a Christmas tree. Christmas tree appeared in Polish city houses in the 19th century, and in villages at the beginning of the 20th century. The unusualness of a Christmas tree in Poland is that, in addition to balls, it is decorated with a large number of apples, sweets, nuts wrapped in wrappers, cookies, straw stars. Such fruits symbolize harvest and fertility.

Christmas Eve table

Nothing is to be eaten until all members of the family have broken the Christmas wafers (opłatek) together and exchanged wishes for good health and prosperity. The family usually prays together before the start of the dinner. During the meal, all of the guests should taste a bit of everything.

Many Polish people try to have 12 dishes on the table. It should be 12 according to the number of apostles or months in the year. Most of the dishes served are cooked specifically for this special day, and only once a year. The preparation of the traditional dishes takes a lot of time. Many restaurants and shops offer Christmas meals, but Poles still prefer to cook traditional family recipes as it always tastes better. Some specific dishes may differ from various regions, but many of them are universal. Sometimes you will find a free seat at the table. It is left for relatives or travelers. Poles believe that no one should be alone during the holiday. Therefore, they invite friends or neighbors who have no one to have dinner with.

Among the traditional Christmas, dishes are Christmas Eve carp, Jewish-style carp, the herring, pierogi, and poppy seed cake. 

After dinner, people start gifting the presents and singing carols.

Christmas carols

Poland really loves its Christmas carols. And there are thousands of them. One even nearly became the national anthem. According to a recent survey from Polish National Radio, nearly 80% of Poles sing carols at the Christmas dinner table, which goes to show how popular these songs really are. This widespread admiration for carols isn’t something new or recent, but rather a continuation of a state that began hundreds of years ago.

Sometimes on Christmas Eve both adults and children go to their neighbors and family. As a reward, they receive money or sweets.

Below are the links where you can listen to some famous Polish Christmas carols:

https://youtu.be/_OZVZ16j65g

https://youtu.be/XWRRK-ws2Sk

https://youtu.be/pHRrmXHJFu0

https://youtu.be/He4my9kjuEc

Pasterka

When midnight comes many Polish people are going to the Christmas mass. Pasterka is a midnight mass celebrated by Roman Catholics during Christmas between 24 and 25 December across Poland. A close translation of the name would be the "Shepherds' Mass", in reference to the Biblical shepherds, who were visited by an angel and told of the birth of Christ. 

Hopefully, this article was interesting to you. 

Happy Holidays!