Christmas in Poland is full of wonderful traditions and not a little superstition.
Polish Christmas Superstitions
Polish women begin early in the season to clean the house from top to bottom. The curtains, the bed linens, the rugs, the whole house must be clean for Christmas, because if it is not clean, they believe the house will remain dirty the entire year following.
Anything that happens on Wigilia (Christmas Eve) will have an effect on the coming year. Fresh fallen snow is the best type of Wigilia weather, predicting blessing for the new year.
During Advent, the Poles will sprinkle “holy water” through the house and barns each day to protect their homes from evil spirits.
Santa Claus is St. Nicholas in Poland, and he comes on December 6th to reward good children with gifts.
Polish Christmas Traditions
The Polish Christmas tree is decorated on the Wigilia day. Historically, the tree was decorated with apples to represent the forbidden fruit of the garden of Eden. Today, however, the tree is decorated with apples, oranges, candies and small chocolates wrapped in colorful paper, nuts wrapped in aluminum foil, hand-blown glass ornaments, candles or lights, thin strips of clear paper (angel's hair), and home-made paper chains or tinsel.
On Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day everyone reaches out to neighbors and strangers, making ammends, and making sure all have somewhere warm to be and food to eat. They traditionally fast on Wiglia, until the first star of the evening is spotted, in remembrance of the star that led the wise men to Christ. Once the first star appears they can begin their family meal.
For the Christmas Eve meal, straw is place on the table under the white linen tablecloth as a reminder of the stable where the Christ Child was born. An empty chair will be present at each table to remind them of the Savior's presence. Young girls may pluck straw from under the table cloth believing that a green piece foretells a wedding, a withered one, waiting and a yellow one, spinsterhood.
The Poles have a special wafer called opletek that the father will break at the beginning of the 12 course meatless Christmas Eve meal, handing half to the mother, they will each bless one another sharing the wafer, then in turn bless each of their children, family, friends and strangers present. Then the meal may start. After dinner they will sing carols and attend a Pasterka (midnight mass).
Christmas Day is called the First Holiday, and no work or cooking is done. It is a day of rest to enjoy your family and remember the birth of Christ, and you eat what was cooked the day before. The 26th of December is called Second Holiday in Poland, and on this day people visit from house to house, sharing greeting, and many young people will rove around caroling and preforming Christmas plays.
Have you been part of a Polish Christmas celebration? What stood out to you the most?
- Flag and map of Poland to color
- Polish traditional dress to color
- Opletek wafer recipe
- Buy oplatek on Amazon
Join our mailing list to get a new post about Christmas Around the World each day in October! Or click the link below to see the other posts in the series.