Boże Narodzenie w Polsce, Święta w Bydgoszczy

Christmas Eve traditions in Poland

Holidays in Poland

Christmas is one of the most important and solemnly celebrated religious holiday in Poland. They have been cultivated for many generations. For many people, it is a time of summaries of various spheres of life, family meetings and gifts awaited by children.Christmas in Poland begins on December 25 and lasts until December 26. In the pre-Christmas period cities and villages are colorful, people decorate their houses with different lights and ornaments. Christmas fairs are usually established on the main squares of the cities. It’s like a city within a city. They consist of beautifully decorated booths where you can buy stuff related to the upcoming holiday. The air smells of delicious food and mulled, well-seasoned wine. The fairs are colorful and beautifully lit. There are many carousels for children, Santa gives out sweets, the streets are full of glowing figures, for example: shapes of angels. There are christmas nativity scenes at schools, kindergartens and cathedrals. Christmas performances are held every year and are usually presented in theatrical form.Actors dress up as historical figures and play scenes from the day when Jesus was born. In every city, every village you can see christmas layouts.In the Polish tradition, they play a very important role because they symbolize family values such as mutual care, help, love and respect.  In a typical nativity scene we will see Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three wise men bringing gifts, angels and animals. An indispensable element is the Star of Bethlehem.

Holy Christmas dinner in Poland – Christmas eve (Wigilia)

Christmas Eve – is the day before Christmas. Although Christmas is at midnight between December 25 and 26,  the celebration in Poland begins on the evening of December 24th. This day is called Wigilia. In many Polish houses families decorate Christmas trees, and in the evening they celebrate with a dinner at home, but  wait until the first star appears in the sky before sitting down to eat.

Symbols of christmas dishes

The tradition in Polish homes is 12 Christmas Eve dishes. This number represents the twelve apostles and the twelve months of the year. Some believe that in order to be lucky in the coming year, you have to try all twelve dishes. The diashes are meatless, so fish is the main on the table.

  • Fish (if you eat a piece of fish you will be healthy all year long, the most preffered fish is carp),

  • Mushrooms (if you taste it on Christmas Eve it will gives you good luck),

  • Сabbage (will save you from evel),

  • Poppy seeds and cereal grains (poppy eaten during a Christmas dinner – to wealth and offspring, and cereal grains – a symbol of immortality and abundance),

  • Nuts and almonds (nuts are a sign of money and fertility, and almonds are hope and new life),

  • Dried fruits ( guarantee of fertility and vitality),

  • Compot of dried fruits, cooked by apples, pears and plums (happiness and prosperity, apples – is a symbol of love, health and peace, pears is a guarantee longevity, prunes are supposed to drive away evil spirits),

  • Bread ( symbol of the beginning of the new birth).

12 Christmas dishes

Dishes can be different and depends on the region, but most of all we cook:

  • betroup soup,

  • carp,

  • herring,

  • dumpling with cabbage and mushrooms,

  • compote of dried fruits,

  • kutia,

  • poppy seed cake,

  • vegetable salad,

  • cheese cake, gingerbread.

The Hay

One of the traditions is hay, which is placed on the table and covered with a white tablecloth (hay is a symbol of poverty, but we Poles believe that if it appears on the Christmas table, we will ensure prosperity and success for the next year).

Sharing the wafer

In our culture, sharing the wafer is a symbol of reconciliation, forgiveness and consent. While breaking the wafer, people make Christmas wishes to each other, and then sit down to the Christmas Eve supper.

Leaving one empty place at the table

A very important tradition is the additional table setting. People believed that they should left one empty place on the table and it will be a place for the souls of the dead. Nowadays, an additional table setting symbolizes a place for an unexpected guest or a stray wanderer who may come to us, and we should welcome him.

Gwiazdor and prezent

The time of the Christmas Eve supper is not only taking care of the symbolism of the dishes, it is also a time when all revelers sit together at one table, talk and sing beautiful Christmas carols.Right after the Christmas Eve supper comes the time for which children have been waiting since the morning. After decorating the Christmas tree and lighting the lights, the children are looking for presenters. Suddenly the presents are already under the Christmas tree. Only a lucky few managed to see who brought them and when.

Who brings gifts?

In Wielkopolska, Kuyavia, Kaszuby and Kociewie, as well as in the Bydgoszcz region, Gwiazdor (polish word “gwiazda” – star) brings gifts. In other regions of Poland – St. Nichola.

The difference between Gwiazdor and St. Nichola 

Gwiazdor comes from an old caroling group. It was a figure carrying a large Christmas star. Gwiazdor was wearing a sheepskin coat and a fur hat. His face was hidden by a mask or smeared with soot. He has a bag with gifts, a rod for naughty children and a bell that announces his arrival. Currently, the appearance of the Gwiazdor is very similar to the St. NicholaAccording to various versions, St Nixhola lives in Lapland. He is dressed in a red coat and hat trimmed with white fur and has a large white beard and also has a big sack with presents. Historically, Gwiazdar and St Nichola are two different characters. However, nowadays, the differences are blurring and the roles they play, especially on Christmas Eve, are almost identical. For each of these characters, children can write a letter with wishes, what they would like to find under the Christmas tree. Interesting that, St Nichola comes to Polish children twice a year. For the first time on December 6, in Poland we say that it is “Mikołajki”. The second time is on December 24, on Christmas Eve as Gwiazdor.

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