Christmas in Poland
When december is coming it means Christmas will be soon! The waiting time becomes more exciting every day, while appear christmas markets, tree, luminous light and all beautiful decorations. In Poland preparations for Christmas begin not too early but that special atmosphere is present the whole month.
When it begins...
The Christmas in Poland have mostly Roman- catholicism religion and familiar character. As Poland has different regions, not everywhere tradition is the same. Tha main point seems to be a character of person who gives us the presents, because Santa Claus it's not so obvious for us. In some part of Poland, like in Greater Poland (the capital is Poznan city) is Gwiazdor who has quite similar appearence as Santa Claus. In some regions the person in Angel, and mostly in the south of country as Lower Silesia (Wroclaw city) or Lesser Poland (Krakow city) there is a Gwiazdka ("little star", reffered to Star of Bethlehem) while in Silesia is little Jesus. The difference is that in Poland Santa Claus comes with gifts every 6th december.
The Christmas first starts for the children, because they usually write a letter to the Star/Gwiazdor/Angel/etc. with their wishes of gifts. On 24th december or day before people are decorate a christmas tree. This day is really important, because in the evening the whole families are meeting together for Wigilia, the traditional Christmas Eve vigil supper. They can start it just when the first star on the sky has appeared.
According to christian catholic tradition during the day people shouldn't eat much or should even fasting at all. The supper is also fasting, because we can't meet that day. Just before supper there is moment for oplatek ("christmas wafer"), of which we break off a small piece and give it to one another. Breaking off and exchanging part of opłatek with someone is symbol of forgiveness between two people and is meant to remind participants of the importance of Christmas, God, and family.
On the table under the table-cloth it's needed to put the straw as a sign of new born Jesus. At the table always the number of dishes is traditionally the number of expected guests plus one, for "stranger", because during the Christmas nobody can stay alone. It's also reffered to pogan belief about leaving place for ancestors' ghosts.
12 courses and not only
Depends on the region there are diffrent courses, the number of them is 12 (in some regions more). Also from pogan tradition remain serving food made from grain, honey, poppy and mushrooms. The most typical dishes are:
* borscht, soup made of beetroot, with uszka ("small ears", small dumplings)
That day dishes can't contain meat and be prepared with adipose.
After the supper it's time for unpack gifts! Laways the youngest memeber of the group has a role to give out gift, which until that moment remain under the christmas tree. Later everybody sing carols and spend time together. At midnight people usually go to the church for mass called Pasterka ("Shepherds' Mass"), it's refered to the biblical shepherds, who were visited by an angel and told of the birth of Christ. During the Pasterka, the Poles sing traditional Christmas carols. The old tradition say that at midnight even animals will speak with human voice.
The Christmas Days are holidays and in Poland it's really familiar time. The 25th is celebration of Jesus's birth, this day Poles meet their family and friends, celebrate dinner and stay all day long together. It's popular also go to see various cribs (native scene) in the city. Usually people go these days to the cementeries to visit the tombs of their beloved. The 26th december is officialy day of Saint Stephen, the protomartyr of Christianity and this day is celebration as well.