How do Poles celebrate Christmas?

Christmas in Poland, Polish Christmas

As in Germany, the run-up to Christmas is gradually being celebrated in Poland at Christmas markets. The atmospheric markets are enjoying growing popularity. The most beautiful Christmas markets can be seen today in Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk and Szczecin, the oldest are in the cultural city of Kraków. You can find lots of Christmas tree decorations and pastries in the markets, including piernik, Polish gingerbread. The tradition of Christmas markets is also growing away from the major Polish cities and numerous Advent and Christmas markets ensure the Christmas spirit in the German-Polish border region of Upper Lusatia and Lower Silesia.

Visit the Christmas markets in Lower Silesia

Christmas Eve (Wigilia) is the most important family festival in Catholic Poland and one of the most traditional Christmas festivals in the world.
It is believed in Poland that the course of the day is crucial for the entire following year, so a lot of importance is attached to harmony and peace in the family.
As in the past, preparations for Christmas Eve begin early in the morning when the family starts decorating the Christmas tree together.

In the past, the apartments were decorated with fir, spruce or pine branches. The festive decoration also included bundles of grain, hay and straw, which are supposed to bring a good harvest and symbolize the crib in the hay barn.
Under the lavishly filled dining table there is always a small bundle of hay, on the one hand to commemorate Jesus' birthplace and because in Poles it is believed that the Christ Child comes to earth accompanied by a donkey.
In most Polish families, a coin is placed under the plate in the hope that one will be protected from poverty.
An equally fixed part of the Polish Christmas dinner is an additional place setting, which is intended to remember the deceased who are particularly remembered on this day and in the event that an unexpected guest or needy person knocks on the door.

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In no Polish family, Christmas Eve begins before the first star is in the sky, traditionally followed by the reading of the Christmas Gospels.
Afterwards, a ritual to ring in the celebrations - the division of a consecrated wafer - as a sign of reconciliation, love, friendship and peace, is celebrated together in Christian and non-Christian Polish families. Everyone breaks off a piece of the wafer and shares it with everyone present, expressing the fulfillment of all wishes to one another. In order to allow friends and family members who are not present to take part in the ritual, the wafers are sent all over the world in the run-up to Christmas. In families with animals, the wafer is also shared with the animals, which, according to Polish legend, can speak to people that night. In contrast to the white wafer, which people break, this wafer has to be colored, according to custom.

In accordance with Christian traditions, people in Poland fast throughout the day until the Lord's Supper and even then meat is foregone in the course of fasting. Therefore, the Polish Last Supper is meatless and consists mostly of fish dishes such as herring and carp, but the traditional pierogi and cabbage dishes are also a must.

Often exactly twelve dishes are served which symbolize the months of the year and the twelve apostles of Christ. Although the number of dishes is not always kept today, it is still believed that more dishes will bring more prosperity to the family for the following year. In any case, all dishes must be tried.
After the meal, either a fish scale or a fishbone is put into the wallet, which is supposed to ensure prosperity and happiness for the next year.
After dinner, which often lasts for hours, the children are given presents and the world-famous Christmas carols are sung together.
The evening usually ends with the solemn midnight mass, the pasterka, to which the whole family goes and prays together.

In the country there is still a custom to this day for Christmas singers in disguise with a star or with a crib to go from house to house, for which they expect something in return. In the past, they were pampered with goodies from the festive table, today they receive a small payment.