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Traditional Christmas in Poland

Updated: Feb 2, 2019

Poland, horse sleigh
fot. Tomasz Proszek

White Christmas… Who doesn’t dream of it?

Christmas in Poland is celebrated in a special way. Probably the only country in the world which has so many Christmas traditions.

Shopping fever starts about 2 weeks before Christmas Eve, when housewives start collecting products for meals.

For this evening, the traditional menu is made of up to 12 dishes! Borscht with ravioli (uszka), herrings with various spices, peas with cabbage, dried fruit compote, dumplings with cabbage and wild mushrooms (pierogi) and… carp must appear on the table.

This fish is mainly associated with Christmas Eve and while it is now easily available in shops, already gutted and divided into parts, in communist times it was an object of desire and it often used to float for at least a week in a domestic bathtub before it was cooked or fried and put on the table.

But Christmas Eve is not just about food. For a festive dinner, obligatory with symbolic hay under a white tablecloth, a wafer is prepared – the symbol of Christ – which everyone later shares and wishes for. There must also be an extra table covering for an unexpected guest. On this day everyone has the right for joy and for not being hungry, the doors of the houses are open to the needy.

In addition, the last year’s harvest of cereal snoods is held at home in the countryside. And children are told that on Christmas Eve animals can speak with human voice…

After dinner there is time for opening wrapped gifts (in Poland we put them under the Christmas tree) and time for singing carols together. The Silent Night is probably the most famous one in the world, but in Poland we have many more joyful songs for Christmas.

At midnight people go to church for the solemn Mass - Pasterka, which end fasting time - Adwent, that is waiting for the Savior’s Birthday.

Some people believe that, what is Christmas Eve, such a whole next year.

The next day is no less abundant, the festive tables already host meat dishes: bigos, sausages, pates and other delicatessen, kept just for this time.

In Poland we celebrate for 2 days: Christmas Day and St. Stephen Day.

In addition to feasting and caroling, you visit cribs in churches and on the market of larger cities (where you can see live donkeys, goats, and even humans depicting Jesus, St. Mary and St. Josef, and shepherds).

The scent of Christmas trees, spices and delicious cakes is everywhere.

In recent years, probably due to global warming, we have had no luck to snow in majority of Poland for Christmas, but not in the Tatra Mountains! There, snow is an integral part of the holiday landscape. And this is where white joy begins.

Podhale (part of the Tatra Mountains) with highlanders – hardened people with strong characters, is another story. There, traditions go even further. In addition to the abundance of culinary and strong drinks (often up to 70% alcohol) we can feel the true atmosphere of Christmas, because the highlanders know how to rejoice.

Carol singing and dancing with original highlander music in inns often end in vacillations of alcohol-suffering feasters.

But do not be afraid! Do not fear! Tourists as cheetahs (in Polish Cepry, people from the lowlands) are not honored with participation in these disputes. Cepry can look at the robbers’ shows in fun at bonfires and enjoy horse sleigh rides (in Polish kulig), which are often followed by local children with tobogganing.

And for a “hard morning” you can go for a walk to Krupówki in Zakopane, where on the street you can meet a white bear, who willingly photographs, or take a cable railway to Gubałówka, the peak from which you can see a stunning panorama of the Tatra mountains, or do trekking with Tatra guide, or relax in the SPA.

If you want to spend an unforgettable Christmas in Poland, write to us!

We will prepare for you and your loved ones a special tailor-made holiday.

Christmas decoration
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