The most cheerful and colorful time of the year has started a few days ago, the whole world is preparing to celebrate Christmas and conclude this year in the best possible way.
In each country of the world, there are different traditions and customs that are unique during this time of year, for example: in my country of origin, Mexico, on December 16th is when our festivities begin, the most traditional things during Christmas holidays are Las Posadas, spectacular parties where we hit a piñata and drink a hot beverage called ponche.
2 years ago it was the last time I celebrated Christmas in my country, it was a magical story since I secretly traveled from Poland to Mexico surprising my whole family.
Christmas in Poland One More Time
This year I will celebrate my fourth Christmas in Poland, the first time I lived the Christmas holidays in this country I discovered that the traditions are not the same as in Mexico, considering that both countries share the same religion for example.
Honestly, I can say that the first Christmas for almost all the foreigners in Poland is something surprising, strange but at the same time something magical. I want to share with you all the Polish Christmas traditions that everyone should know.
Traditions at the Polish Christmas Dinner
As I mentioned before, the traditions and customs in Poland especially during the Christmas dinner is something unique and different so let’s start.
1. St. Nicholas Day
The Christmas festivities in Poland begin on December 6, this day is known as St. Nicholas Day (Mikołajki in Polish), and unofficially it is the beginning of Christmas in Poland.
During this day all good children in Poland receive small gifts (fruits, cookies and sweets), and bad children can receive a piece of coal.
2. Leave an Empty Place at the Table
In all the houses in Poland during Christmas Eve dinner it is very common that at the tables you will find an empty extra place. But why? In Poland, it is common to do this in case some unexpected person shows up at the door, not necessarily has to be family or friend, but anyone who requires asylum during this day.
3. Share a host (Opłatek)
This is my favorite part during Christmas in Poland, before starting the dinner each of the persons gets a piece of host (Opłatek in Polish). Each of the dinner attendees must split a piece of this opłatek with another person, and while doing this you have to say the good wishes you want for that person for next year, for example: a lot of health for next year, or what Poles always tell me: “I hope that you learn a lot of Polish”.
4. Hay on the Table
This tradition is that popular anymore, but it was very popular some years ago. Under the tablecloth you may find a piece of hay, this is done as it is a way to symbolize the birth of Jesus which was in a manger.
5. Start The Dinner Very Early
The Christmas Eve dinner in Poland is known as Wigilia, unlike in Mexico where we start to have dinner very late (around 10pm), in Poland dinner starts when the first star appears in the sky.
Because during the winter in Poland, the duration of a day is very short, it is very likely that the Christmas dinner begins even at 5pm.
6. 12 Food Dishes … but No Meat at All!
This was and is the most surprising for me: because Poland is a country with strong influence of the Catholic religion, during the 24th of December the majority of Poles are fasting, and during the dinner the traditional thing is to eat 12 Christmas dishes.
The surprise for me was knowing that none of those 12 dishes has meat, something that is completely different to my country. Some of the most traditional Polish dishes are: Barszcz czerwony, Makowiec, Pierogi, mushroom soup and more.
7. Animals Can Speak
In Poland it is believed that during the Christmas Eve dinner the animals are given the gift of speaking for only this night. This to thank the animals that helped to receive the baby Jesus during his birth. Did you always want to hear your pet talk? Well now is your chance!
8. Kiss under the Mistletoe
The countries of Central Europe or Eastern Europe are not known worldwide for being romantic, but during Christmas this is a bit different in Poland. In this country they have a tradition that is especially for all lovers.
In the houses a piece of mistletoe is hung and every time you are under it you have to give a kiss. In ancient times, mistletoe was a symbol of love and friendship, that is why people kiss.
9. Midnight Mass
After Christmas Eve dinner, it is normal in Poland to go to the midnight mass, which concludes the celebrations of the Wigilia.
10. On December 26th the Holidays Continue
Because December 24th at night and the 25th is spent normally with the family, in Poland on December 26th it is an official free day. On this day it is common to meet friends, and celebrate a little bit more. Definitely a day to continue resting and spending time with the loved ones.
I hope you liked this article and that you were surprised with all of the Polish Christmas traditions.
Wesołych Świąt! Merry Christmas!