Christmas in Poland is about love, forgiveness, family reunions and leaving behind old enmity. The festivity brings with it a magical atmosphere where animals are believed to talk and mysterious maidens are said to posses the power to predict future. This tradition of fortunetelling began centuries ago and continues to be an integral part of Polish culture. Today, much of the urban population considers this tradition as just 'a bit of fun' while, the rural population, clinging to old beliefs, still puts a lot faith in the fortune tellers. The celebration of this festival has changed considerably through the course of time. The original Pagan customs have been replaced by the ones introduced by the Catholic Church and have also been influenced considerably by the local culture. Christmas in Poland is certainly an interesting cultural melting pot showcasing its diverse influences. Unlike in Norway, celebrating St Nicholas Day does not hold much importance; instead is celebrated as St Feast Day on the 6th of December each year. The following sentences seek to help you get acquainted with some more of these tasty little tit-bits on Christmas in Poland.
Polish Christmas Customs
Read about Christmas in Poland and Polish Christmas customs and traditions associated with it.
Christmas In Poland
- Like Norway, Christmas celebration in Poland also begins four Sundays before yuletide. During this period, several religious services and prayers are conducted to mark the beginning of the Christmas season in Poland; this practise is known as 'Rororaty’.
- On the 6th of December, St Nicholas Day is celebrated and gifts are distributed to children. The festivity that St Nicholas Day brings is an essential part of Polish culture.
- The Christmas feast begins with “Wigilia” that takes place on the eve of yuletide. It is believed to be a great honour if a person is invited for a “Wigilia” dinner; the meal begins with sharing a piece of Oplatek, a wafer stamped with a holy symbol, with the guests and the hosts.
- The meal usually consists of fried carp, borscht (beetroot soup), uszka (ravioli) carp fillet, carp in aspic and honey cakes known as Piernik. Other specialties include fish soup, carp with potato salad, fried dumplings, cabbage rolls stuffed with pork and beef, mixed cereal and fruit compote.
- After the Christmas Eve feast, people exchange gifts followed by midnight mass at the church to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Traditions In Poland
- Yuletide celebrations usually include cooking a gastronomic treat and decorating the Christmas tree with cut-outs of gingerbread, cookies, fruits, candies, straw embellishments, multi-hued wafers and lots of other things.
- Most of the decorations hung on the Christmas tree are homemade and are not taken down till February 2nd, when the feast of St Mary of the “Candle of Lightning” takes place.
- Traditionally, a Polish Christmas meal consists of 12 dishes that are made in the honour of the 12 apostles. Although these dishes are made without meat, consuming fish is permitted. The fast that precedes the meal is broken after watching the first star that appears in the sky. Tradition also dictates that the fast is broken with the sharing of a wafer.
- 26th December, usually known as Boxing Day, is revered as Holy Szczepan, or St. Stephen's Day. It is believed to be the day when the crops are sanctified. This day is spent attending church services, carolling and visiting family.
- Polish people are known to be extremely superstitious about Christmas Eve. It’s a common belief that the first person to visit a house decides the future of that house. A man is said to bring good fortune and a woman apparently brings misfortune.
- At the dining table, multi coloured straws are put under the tablecloth and once supper is over, everyone picks a straw. The green coloured straw is believed to be a sign of marriage, while a yellow one refers to life as a bachelor/spinster and a short one refers to a short life span.
- Some of the activities that are common during this season are carol singing, reciting biblical verses and performing puppet shows known as Szopi. .
In short, if you were to visit Poland during Christmas, then you are bound to walk away with head full of memories of a singularly unique holiday season.