Christmas in Poland
Christmas in Poland is one of the most family-focused parts of the year. During these few days, we gather together. Family members come to one’s home to celebrate from all around Poland and even the world. In my family, it was and still is – excluding this and previous years – a tradition to gather at my grandma’s house in a small town located close to Wrocław. Everyone was coming to celebrate and spend time together. The most important day is 24th December, Christmas Eve, and two upcoming days. But before that, I’ll write more about traditions and events that come before.
In Poland, as in the Catholic Church, preparation for Christmas starts with the beginning of December with Advent. Unlike in the Western Churches, there are Roraty, a special Mass traditionally held early in the morning, when it’s still dark or, nowadays, in the evening. The Mass, in the beginning, is only lit by candles and lanterns brought by kids. These Masses are celebrated every day until Christmas Eve. Kids often get unique calendars that symbolize the Advent period. These have special spaces for each day filled with chocolate sweets. At the beginning of each day, kids can open it and eat the goody.
24th December starts traditionally with not so strict nowadays fast. One shouldn’t eat meat that day. That is a Polish tradition which nowadays is less common. This day you can feel all the delicious smells of food prepared for the Christmas supper. According to tradition, there should be twelve unique dishes. It differs regionally, but most common are: Red borscht with mushroom dumplings, Cabbage with Split Peas, Carp, Mushroom and Cabbage Pierogi (Polish dumplings), Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Polish Cheesecake, Poppy Seed Cake, Wheat-flour and Honey Dessert called kutia, and kompot (Smoked Fruit Cordial) to drink When dusk comes, and it’s dark everyone, but especially kids wait for the first star to show in the sky. It’s called Gwiazdka, symbolizes the star of Bethlehem and means that the supper can start. Family members gather at one table in a room decorated with a Christmas tree, lights, and other decorations. It is necessary to place the hay under the tablecloth. It commemorates the poverty and modesty in which Jesus Christ was born. Before anyone can start feasting, there should be a prayer performed. Afterward follows another traditional thing specific to Poland and a few other countries. The sharing of Christmas wafer (in Polish, it’s called opłatek). The oldest person in the family starts with breaking the wafer and giving everyone a piece. Family members then share parts of it and exchange good wishes. Once it is done and everyone exchanges, the meal can start.
At midnight everyone, who is a believer, should go to church for the most important Mass of that time and the culminating point of all Christmas period, called Pasterka. It is one of the most important Polish traditions. The solemnly celebrated Mass is full of Christmas Carols (Kolędy), often sung by a choir. Here is one example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyfmkPsH5Fg. It is a Mass of joy and happiness that commemorates the waiting and prayer of shepherds who were the first to pay homage to little Jesus.
25th and 26th of December are days spent with family. One of the most important things during these two days is – and it is a bit weird – the screening of Home Alone on TV. Once the TV wanted to quit broadcasting this film, which caused massive public opposition, the collected signatures in protest forced them to release the movie. Christmas is a unique period. It is full of many different traditions, which vary by region. But the most important thing is that it is time with the family in a joyful mood.