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posted December 18, 2014 in category Discovering Wroclaw


How to celebrate Christmas in Poland?

Polish Christmas means so much more than just Christmas Tree and presents. We have our traditions, which, thankfully, continue to be cultivated. And if you spend this time of the year here, you’ll discover the whole new meaning of the Christmas Magic. Check out what you know about our Christmas traditions!
Santa Clause, flashy lights and Jingle bells are all just a December commercial additions. Polish people have quite a rich Christmas traditions and they try to preserve them. Grandparents and parents make sure that our old customs are practiced as long as possible - happyly and festively, and with family in the centre - attending the Midnight Mess is an indispensible part of Christmas.

Who leaves gifts under the Christmas Tree?

Our Christmas starts with the Christmas Tree, which is a typical symbol, familiar to everyone. And it should be decorated on the Christmas Eve. In many households, Christmas baubles represent family history and the decorations and hand-made, colorful and shiny. And usually very different than the ones you find in a supermarket - each of our baubles is different and unique. Under the Tree, we often place a crib - simple or decorated - a true masterpiece.  And the big question is: who leaves the presents under the Tree, if Santa Clause has already visited us on 6 December? The answer depends on the region, and even a household: in Podkarpackie an Angel places gifts under the Tree, in Silesia - Baby Jesus, and in other regions - a Star. But in all homes they remain wrapped until the end of the Christmas Dinner.

Celebrating tradition

Christmas Dinner should traditionally comprise 12 dishes and we have to try each one of them - which isn’t really a challenge, since we tend to fast on 24 December. And by fasting, we do not mean not eating meat, we mean limiting the food to minimum. Each type of food we try during the Dinner is a symbol, e.g. fish reflects Revival and Rebirth, mushrooms - wealth, nuts - wisdom. Fasting and waiting for the first star to appear in the sky and give us the sign to start the Dinner is not easy - Polish Christmas cuisine has a unique aroma that day. Christmas Dinner commences with sharing a special wafer. White, holy wafer may be even buttered with honey, and in the past is used to be decorative and colorful.
We can take our seats at the table only if we make sure that one seat remains empty - on the Christmas Night we should welcome in our house everyone who knocks to our door. Hay under the Christmas Tablecloth symbolizes poverty and the place where Baby Jesus was born. In some households, the tradition of pouring cereals on the Christmas Tablecloth is also practiced. When we finish eating, there comes a time to sing Christmas Carols. Christmas is not Christmas without singing our Carols. We all know them and sing: Cicha noc [Silent Night], Wśród nocnej ciszy [In the midst of night's quiet], Bóg się rodzi [God is being Born], and those with special talents also deal quite well with pastorals - especially during the Midnight Mass. In all Polish churches at midnight there is a unique Mass - a symbol of shepherds’ awaiting for God’s birth; it is an official end of Christmas Eve and the beginning of Christmas.
And this in not all... We have many funny Christmas traditions and customs. But you have to wait to the next article to learn more about them.

Author: Michał Hajdasz