Google Website Translator Gadget

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas in Poland

Continuing our series of Christmases around the world, this one is on Christmas Tradition in Poland.

Mesotych Swiat....Happy Holidays in Polish

Polish Christmas Ornament
Wigilia -- The Vigil

For Poles, Christmas Eve is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them.

Wigilia (vee-GEEL-yah), which literally means "vigil," or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus, is considered more important than Christmas Day itself.
How Poles Decorate

Preparations begin early on Christmas Eve. Years ago, it was traditional for country families to cut boughs of evergreen from the forest to be tucked behind holy pictures in the home or above the entryway. A fir tree top was hung upside down from a beam in the ceiling. The children and women of the household decorated the boughs with red apples, nuts and ornaments made of paper and bread.

City families decorate with lights, apples, nuts, candies, and hand-blown glass, crystal and paper ornaments. Hung from the ceiling are pajaki, spider-web-like decorations, and dozynki, colorful harvest wreaths decorated with flowers and stars. In Krakow, there are szopki (SHOP-kee) -– miniature Krakowian puppet theaters. These elaborate creations are made of tin foil and entered into competition each year on the square of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Krakow.
The Table Is Prepared

Spider-web-like Decoration

Szopki (Shop-kee) Miniature Krakowian Puppet Theater
Source via ~ Pinterest  ~ Originally pinned by Joanne Simplecrea
Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil, which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers –- oplatki (oh-PWAHT-kee) -– on the finest plate she owns. Today, in a concession to tradition, many people place straw and evergreen sprigs on a serving platter covered with a fine white napkin on which the oplatki rest.

Oplatki (Oh-Pwaht-kee)
Blessed Communion Wafer
Source via ~
An extra place is set for any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed.
The Star Supper

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the "breaking of the oplatki."

The eldest family member takes the oplatek wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatek with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Some Poles share a pink-colored oplatki with the household (and barnyard) animals because they were the first to greet the Baby Jesus at midnight. The animals also receive a taste of every course of the meal mixed in with their feed.

Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection.
The Wigilia Meal

Wigilia is a meatless meal because, years ago, Roman Catholics fasted for the four weeks of Advent, including Christmas Eve. In the past there were thirteen main dishes (representing the Apostles and Christ), but, these days, many families have replaced this tradition with a twelve-fruit compote for dessert.

12 Fruit Kompot
Source via ~
The foods are to represent the four corners of the earth -- mushrooms from the forest, grain from the fields, fruit from the orchards, and fish from the lakes and sea.

Meals vary from family to family but usually include a special soup followed by many elegant fish preparations, vegetables, and pierogi.

Typical dishes include barszcz wigilijny z uszkami (Christmas Eve borscht with mushroom uszka dumplings), carp in aspic, herring (sledze), breaded whitefish, meatless cabbage rolls (golabki), and noodles with poppyseed. Desserts might include nuts, tangerines, chocolates, makowiec (poppyseed roll), mazurek (a jam-filled flat pastry), piernik (honey-spice cake), pierniczki (gingerbread cookies), kompot (fruit compote), cognac, liqueurs, mead and krupnik (a honey-spiced vodka). Kutia, a kind of gruel with cracked wheat and honey, is also eaten in some parts of Poland on Christmas Eve.

Wigilijny Zuszkami (Christmas Eve Borscht with Mushroom Uszka Dumplings0
Source via ~  Google Images

Carp in Aspic,
Source via ~

Noodles and Poppyseeds
Source via ~

Golabki (Meatless cabbage rolls
Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll)
Source via ~

Mazurka ( Jam filled Flat Pastry)
Source via ~

Piernik (Honey Spice Cake)
Pierniczki (Gingerbread Cookies)
Source via ~

The Starman Makes an Appearance

At the end of supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman (very often the parish priest in disguise), accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Father Christmas ~ The Starman

Koledy -– carols -– are sung and presents are opened by all. Then the family prepares for Midnight Mass known as Pasterka or Shepherds Mass because they were the first to greet the Baby Jesus.
Christmas Day

Wesolych swiat (veh-SOH-wik SHVYOHNT)! Merry Christmas! Christmas day is spent visiting family and friends. Dinner typically is ham, some type of Polish kielbasa, roast duck or goose, or Hunter’s stew -– bigos. Starboys go caroling from house to house carrying the szopka, a miniature puppet theater that recreates the Nativity story.

This is a lovely tradition rich in history and so far my favorite.  :)  Tune in next week for more traditions.

Source via ~


  1. I am fascinated by the various traditions, the favorite dishes, and the focus on family. I am going to read of the other countries you have covered. How charming!


  2. OH my gosh I never knew any of these traditions - so cool Kris that you share these with us:) I have a few of my best friends and they're from Poland, but I have never thought to ask them about their traditions at Xmas, now I don't have to.
    Happy day sweets,

  3. Fun to read, different traditions are so interesting! :-)

  4. Kris, this one hit home for me because my father's mother was Polish. She used to make Polish dishes for her family when my dad was growing up. These goodies look so good, especially the jam filled pastry and gingerbread cookies. Father Christmas looks so jolly. Thank you for sharing a bit of my own heritage, and Ohhhhhh, how I'd love for you to do a post on the Greek Christmas traditions.
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

  5. Fascinating post, Kristie! It makes me want to jump on a plane to Krakow - which is quite easy for us because there are direct low-cost flights from Edinburgh.
    My daughter was in Krakow at Easter this year on a school choir and orchestra trip, and loved the city and the neighbouring towns they performed in. People were so enthusiastic - they had sell-out concerts, and in one town where they were invited to a huge tea put on by the church they'd played at. They especially enjoyed the home-made cakes at this, and having seen your pictures I can understand why.

    You can see a video of the tour here, with some of the beautiful church interiors they played in.

  6. So beautiful...I have friends from Poland, they have wonderful traditions...wouldn't some of the food ;) Really makes Christmas more special...really enjoying these...hope your week was great & your weekend will be too :) xx

  7. Its amazing, the differences and the similarities in various traditions. All stuff that make this world an interesting place : )

  8. I love how you have tied in the food they have to the post-food is such a part of Christmas everywhere in the world.

  9. I enjoyed reading this post. I love learning about other traditions.


  10. Αweѕome post.

    Here is my blog pοst ... RPMPoker Offer

  11. Ι blog οften аnd Ι really thank yοu fοr yοuг informatіοn.

    Тhiѕ аrticle hаs truly peakеd my inteгest.
    Ӏ'm going to take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed too.

    Stop by my blog post ... Americas Cardroom Poker Bonus []


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Panama City, Florida