Christmas Eve – the most celebrated evening in Poland

Today I’d like to tell you about Polish Christmas traditions. Every year many people are waiting for this unusual evening on the December 24th. This time is usually spent with the whole family and is even more celebrated than the Christmas Day. Years ago, it used to be a lot of snow (all the ground was covered with half or even a meter of snow!). But more recently it’s rather warm. This year on Christmas Eve evening it was +10°C!

Beginning 4 Sundays before Christmas – Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. Smarter people start buying presents quite early to avoid queuing in the shopping centres.

Then, two or three days before Christmas people start feeling the real Christmas atmosphere, begin preparations of their homes (all the windows have to be clean, of course xD), start cooking some dishes, buy and decorate Christmas tree.

Christmas have become a worldwide tradition nowadays, but it is beginning to be considered mostly as X-mas, to get rid of the „Christ” part. Whereas, in Poland the 25th of December is still called „Boże Narodzenie”, which means „Christ Birth”. What is more, Poland is a very catholic country (88% due to wikipedia). Even if some people go to the church it is still quite a religious celebration.

But let’s move to the Christmas Eve.

The traditional Christmas Eve dinner traditionally begins when children find the first shining star on the night sky. Then the whole family gathers around the table. My family is quite a religious one, so I’ll tell you about the Christmas from my point of view.

First, there text about the Nativity is read from the Bible. Then the family prays for peace, love, for the whole family, for poor, lonely or ill. We pray for the family members that died. Some carols may be sung.

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Then the Christmas wafer called „opłatek” is broken and shared by all people. When sharing the wafer people give each other best wishes of health, prosperity and love for the next year. Usually it’s very personal wishes.

Then the dinner (or supper) begins. As you can imagine with so many people gathered at one table, there is usually a lot of food. Really, lots of delicious food! And there is also one extra seat „for a stranger”, so if you happen to be in Poland during Christmas Eve – don’t worry. People are prepared to host some „extra” people. 😉 When I was small, I always liked that there were a lot of people on our Christmas Eve celebrations. I met with my whole family: grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. It is one of not so many opportunities to see all the people at once. And we also had some unexpected guests a few times. 🙂

First there is a red borsch soup (beetroot soup) with some little dumplings filled with mushrooms or cabbage and mushrooms. But you can meet mushroom soup, bean soup or possibly some others. There can be different dishes depending on the region of Poland your family is from. But the tradition is, that there are 12 dishes on the table. Ages ago, it was said that peasants ate 5-7 dishes, gentility – 9 and the highest nobility even up to 15 dishes.

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Beetroot soup (up) and mushroom soup (down).         I really like both.

Among other food that you can find on the Christmas table there are carp fish (usually fried), dumplings – either Ruthuanian (with potato, white cheese and onion) or with cabbage and mushrooms, croquettes also with cabbage and mushrooms, many different types of fish (this year I had trout, herrings and pollock). There can be also some salads and the most popular is the one made from the cooked vegetables. 

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Then there are some sweet stuff. Again, depending on the region, there can be „kutia” (made of poppy-seeds, wheat, nuts and honey), „makiełki” (a yeast-bun with poppy-seeds and milk), pasta with poppy-seeds, cheesecake, poppy-seed cake, drop scones (Polish „racuchy”), gingerbread or gingerbread cookies.

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As you can imagine, eating so much food may take some time. But it’s not only about eating. The family talks, sings carols. And for me the Polish carols are the most beautiful in the world. But from the English ones I really like „We three kings of Orient are” and „Mary did you know”.

Check out this Polish carols:

„Bóg się rodzi” (‚God is born’) https://www.youtube.com/
„Wśród nocnej ciszy” (‚In the night silence’) https://www.youtube.com/
„Jezus malusieńki” (‚the little Jesus’) https://www.youtube.com/
„Oj maluśki maluśki” (‚the little little’, the regional one) https://www.youtube.com/

And then comes the favourite time for all children. After trying a little bit of all 12 dishes they can finally open the presents brought by the Santa Claus (or sometimes by the Child, the Angel or the Star).

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What did you get from Santa this year? 😉

At the end of the day (or at the beginning of the next one) many people go for the midnight mass, traditionally called the Mass of Shepherds. Then it is announced that Jesus is born! And Christmas celebrations can really begin.

There is one more ‚informal’ tradition in Poland. Every year half of Polish families gather in front of the TV to watch… ‚Home alone’ („Kevin sam w domu”)! 😀 No one knows when it really started but when one year when people realised that ‚Home alone’ will not be shown they even signed an online petition begging the TV to just play it. And so there is Kevin left alone in his home or in New York – every year – over and over again! 🙂

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