Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Poland. There are many traditions and customs during this special holiday. All Polish people look forward to these holidays, especially children. In mid-November in Poland, you can see that Christmas is coming. How? Most shops already have Christmas decorations, lamps are lit in the streets, Christmas trees can be seen here and there, and Polish people are following their gifts. In larger cities there are Christmas markets where you can buy hot food and drinks, as well as handicrafts made by Polish artists. In this article, we will describe to you how the traditional Polish family celebrates Christmas Eve and Christmas.
How Do We Celebrate Christmas In Poland?
Preparation in Polish Houses
On the 24th of December, a “fire” starts in Polish homes. Not in the sense of the word, but actively preparing for Christmas Eve including preparing traditional meals, cleaning the house, dressing the Christmas tree, preparing elegant clothes, etc. Polish people believe that all dishes and housework should be prepared before the first star in the sky. In Polish tradition, for the next three days, no work is allowed. Wigilia (Polish pronunciation: [viˈɡilʲa]) is the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper in Poland. Polish Wigilia begins with the appearance of the first star in the sky, which corresponds to the Star of Bethlehem. Mostly in Polish tradition, children look out for the star. In Polish families, Christmas is not complete without a Christmas tree. It appeared in Poland at the beginning of the 19th century. Children decorate it with lights, sweets, nuts wrapped in wrappers and balls.
Christmas Eve Table
The Polish Christmas Eve begins with a communal prayer. It cannot be started until all family members have sat down at the table. After saying a common prayer, everyone breaks a Christmas wafer and makes wishes.
Most Polish families eat 12 Christmas Eve dishes. This number refers to the number of apostles and the months of the year. Special dishes are prepared and even served only once a year especially for this occasion. Preparing traditional Polish dishes takes a lot of time. Some people opt for dishes from local restaurants, while some prefer to prepare them themselves according to old family recipes. Depending on the region in Poland, some dishes may differ from each other, and some may just be a specialty of the region. It is also a Polish tradition to put hay under the tablecloth and leave one free seat. Polish people believe that no one can be alone especially on Christmas, so single people are often invited to their homes. According to traditional Polish cuisine, the Christmas Eve table may feature meatless dishes, such as dumplings with sauerkraut and wild mushrooms, Christmas Eve carp, Jewish-style carp, the herring, cheesecake and poppy seed cake. After Christmas Eve dinner, everyone gifting presents to each other and singing Christmas carols together.
Polish Christmas Carols
Poles love carols. During the holidays and after Christmas we can hear them on the radios. Polish families sing them at Christmas Eve tables and in churches. The most popular are the traditional ones, which go back several hundreds years. In the old Polish tradition, children with their families visited their neighbors with gifts, often with sweets, and sang carols. In Kashubia, for example, the chosen ones would dress up as various characters and wander from house to house with a big star.
Below are the links where you can listen to some famous Polish Christmas carols:
At midnight Polish families go to church for a shepherdess. Pasterka is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on the night of December 24-25. The meaning of the word pasterka is related to the Biblical shepherds. It symbolizes the moment of the visitation of the shepherd by the angel who announced the birth of Christ.
After Christmas Eve is Christmas Day (December 25). During Christmas Polish families visit each other, sing carols together, spend time together, sometimes giving gifts to each other. Most Polish families prepare rich dinners.
Christmas Eve – Wigilia
Christmas – Boże Narodzenie
Christmas trees – choinka
Christmas markets – jarmark bożonarodzeniowy
carols – kolędy
shepherdess – Pasterka
Christmas wafer – opłatek wigilijny
Poles in their culture like to celebrate holidays that are important to them. If you want to learn more about Polish culture, we invite you to take online Polish language course at Polka Dot School.