Christmas in Poland is observed on 25th December owing to the strong Catholic hold in the country. Christmas celebrations are done in a grand scale both in the family and in the public. The custom of Christmas tree is largely prevalent here, especially in the capital city of Warsaw which is renowned for the exquisite Christmas trees and the lights which decorate the streets. Those who want to visit Poland during Christmas are sure to relish the traditional foods and enjoy shopping in the markets which crop up temporarily during Christmas. It can be a pleasant Christmas holiday destination. The Polish Christmas traditions are, largely, the result of the combination of the folk culture and the local traditions. Like many other European countries, the customs in Poland have Pre-Christian origin. Some of these customs have survived and are taken on a serious note by some and on a fun basis by some others. Go through the article to know about these traditions.
Customs, Traditions And Celebrations
Christmas season in Poland begins with Advent. It is time when they start preparing for the big day. Cleaning and whitewashing the houses is the first and one of the most significant customs. The Polish are of the belief that if the house is not clean on Christmas, it will remain dirty throughout the next year. Almost all women are thoroughly indulged in cleaning the nooks and corners of their houses to make sure their families have a new and a fresh start on and after Christmas.
During Advent most of the households are seen baking the special Christmas gingerbread which they call 'pierniki'. Pierniki are made in various shapes such as stars, hearts, animals or even St. Nicholas. Making ornaments for Christmas decorations in another of the special tasks during this time. Handmade decorative eggshells, stars, garlands, etc.
The decorations are carried out quite early on Christmas Eve. Many traditional families cut boughs from some evergreen trees and place them at their doorways. Hanging a fir tree top from the ceiling is another custom. The urban families decorate their houses with lights, apples, nuts and many handmade ornaments. The ceiling decoration consists of 'pajaki', cobweb-like patterns, and 'dozynki', colorful harvest wreaths flowers and stars tucked in them. The Christmas tree is placed in the family room and decorated with ornaments and lights. Originally, Christmas trees are embellished with garlands and handmade ornaments such as shiny apples, wrapped chocolate shapes, walnuts, paper chains and candles. A glittering star at the top is also placed. In the more modern houses one can find sparkles hanging from the tree.
In Poland St. Nicholas or Swiety Mikolaj appears twice during the Christmas season. The first time he comes is on the morning of 6th December when family members notice their boots filled with candies. The second visit happens on the evening of 24th December. This time he leaves gifts for the children under the Christmas tree. The Polish Santa is not much different in appearance to the Santa Claus that is known to us. He is a bearded man with red suit, comes in a sleigh pulled by the reindeers and lives in the North Pole.
Wigilia (Poland's Christmas Eve)
The traditional feasting of Christmas happens on Christmas Eve or Wigilia. The feast begins with the appearance of the first star. But before the supper begins, hay or straw is placed underneath the white tablecloth. Traditional Christmas dinner in Poland consists of twelve dishes, one for each of the twelve disciples. Before starting the dinner, a special Christmas wafer called 'oplatek' is broken and shared among the family members. It is considered a symbol of unity with Christ. A typical Polish meal includes 'barszcz wigilijny z uszkami' (Christmas Eve borscht with mushroom uszka dumplings), carp in aspic, herring (sledze), breaded whitefish; meatless cabbage rolls (golabki), and noodles with poppy seed. Desserts can consist of nuts, tangerines, chocolates, poppy seed roll, 'mazurek' (a jam-filled flat pastry), 'piernik' (honey-spice cake), gingerbread cookies, 'kompot' (fruit compote), cognac, liqueurs, mead and 'krupnik' (honey-spiced vodka).
The wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper, as it begins only with the appearance of the first star in the sky. Usually, the youngest child in the family is given this task. Once the star is seen, candles on the tables are lit and the dinner commences with the breaking of the 'oplatki'. The rest of the evening, after supper, is spent in telling stories and singing songs around the Christmas tree. Pasterka or the midnight mass at the local church marks the end of Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day is reserved for the family and therefore, no visits are conducted. Neither cleaning of the houses nor cooking is allowed on this day. Food from the previous day is heated and consumed. Christmas Day is celebrated as day of enjoyment as Jesus was born.
St. Stephen's Day
On St. Stephen's Day people visit each other's families and exchange Christmas greeting. Towards the evening Christmas are carols are sung. This is a traditional form of entertainment which is still widespread. 'Herody', is a popular form of caroling in which twelve boys are dressed in traditional costumes. One of them will be dressed as King Herod and rest as his companions.
The Polish version of Christmas upholds the age-old traditions as it believes that without these customs the true spirit of Christmas is not brought out. Christmas celebrations are more peaceful in nature and they try not to be ostentatious in this regard. This does not mean that Christmas here is devoid of entertainment. In fact Christmas in Poland the customs are as enjoyable as religious they are.
Read through the article to know about the customs and traditions which are followed during Christmas celebrations in Poland.