If you ask the Poles what is their favourite holiday throughout the calendar year is, the most common answer would probably be Christmas. Since many families in Poland are Catholic, from the childhood, everyone attaches great importance to the holidays, joining a waiting period of several weeks and a three-day celebration.
Polish Christmas differs significantly from the customs of other countries- this is mostly a result of the dominant culture of the Polish Catholic tradition and its mixing with pagan beliefs and folklore throughout the centuries. Today we will look at just what makes this holiday so special in Poland!
Although supermarkets and shopping centres start putting their decorations up as early as All Saints' Day, the official start of the pre-Christmas is the first Sunday of Advent. It is a four-week period in the Christian tradition that serves as a reminder of waiting for the birth of Jesus.
Advent is an exciting time for many, and especially for children, who every night open a new door on their Advent calendar and eat the chocolate hidden behind, increasing their anticipation for the holidays. At least that’s how it is supposed to work; we all know very well that often all the chocolates are eaten on the first day!
The Advent wreath is a symbol made of branches from coniferous trees placed in a circle with four candles that are lit one after the other, with the next one lit on each of the Sundays of Advent. The candles are usually purple and pink or red. Other notable decorations that can be seen in the windows of many Polish homes are Advent candle holders, decorative lights on the trees, and poinsettias, whether in the form of flowers or as a lamp hung on the windows.
Poles love to make a festive atmosphere in their homes, decorating them with many Christmas decorations. Decorating enhances the sense of anticipation and preparation for Christmas Eve.
For many of us, the Christmas season is a time of intensive work and long hours spent in the office, where we try to get everything done before we go on a well-deserved Christmas break. But a good solution is to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere in the workplace as well. Many set small Christmas trees and decorations on their desks, as a festive will make it easier to work effectively in this busy period.
Christmas decorations are very popular in Poland! They come from family traditions and customs, but also from contemporary trends. At Christmas fairs you can find hand-painted glass balls that are a specific expression of Polish folk culture. Also popular is to hand make your own decorations.
Holiday shopping is part of the preparation for Christmas. Some find it to be a real chore, while other love it. Either way, shopping provides a chance to have a look that the elaborate store windows and holiday décor.
Polish holidays, especially Christmas Eve, are based on strict traditions when it comes to food consumed. These differ, of course, depending on each family and the region of the country. Often, however, on Christmas Eve there are 12 dishes, all meatless. It is also common to abstain from alcohol during this meal. Some typical dishes are borscht with dumplings, dumplings with mushrooms, dumplings with cabbage, fried carp, and stew. Christmas Eve dinner is usually held at 17.00, and during the day of Christmas Eve, everyone observes a strict fast.
For many, the Christmas tree is such an important symbol that they could not imagine the holiday without it. The overwhelming majority puts op a live Christmas tree. The ritual of decorating the Christmas tree is very important for the Poles and usually takes place in the immediate family circle a few days before Christmas.
The long period of preparation and expectation is awarded in the lavish Christmas Eve dinner with family. It starts, in many homes, with the reading of a Bible passage about the birth of Christ, which is normally read by the youngest member of the family who knows how to read. In many homes, this is a very moving moment, the time in which feuds and quarrels end and all speak lovingly and honestly. It is customary to leave one empty seat at the table for a stranger, a practise that refers to the custom of inviting in need to share a meal and some family warmth.
The moment which most children (and adults) await the most is the opening of gifts. They are arranged under the tree, and the youngest member of the family is responsible for their allocation and delivery to customers. After dinner and gifts, many sing Christmas carols and then, at midnight, go to the traditional midnight mass.