Christmas Traditions from Poland

Now that we are in December, I believe it is finally acceptable to share a Christmas Post! This year I thought I’d share with you Polish Christmas Traditions (from what I can remember) and what we still currently “uphold” as we have adapted some Irish Traditions also.

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6th of December – Santa Claus’ Birthday

6th of December is a day celebrated as Santa Claus’ Birthday. On this day people gift each other with something small as a “celebration” of his birthday. If you are doing a Secret Santa in work or school this would be the day when you bring in your gift. Mostly it would be parents who give something small to their children perhaps chocolate or a small toy as a token to symbolize this day.

24th of December – Christmas Eve

In Poland we have our Christmas Dinner on the 24th of December. On this day we don’t eat any meat, sweets or drink alcohol. Generally speaking we should be fasting all day until the dinner itself, this of course does not include elderly or children. In a traditional household the dinner consists of 12 courses and there is quite a lot of fish involved. When I say 12 courses, I do not mean what most people will think of as 12 main courses – one course for example could be tea/coffee. In our house we have the following:

Body of Christ; Vinegar Marinated Herring with Onions; Mushroom Soup; Butter Beans; Mushroom & Cabbage Dumplings; Carp & Makielki (Pasta with Poppy Seeds & Raisins); Dried Fruit Juice; Cakes; Tea & Coffee.

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We don’t stick 100% to the traditional 12 courses, however I feel the above is more than plenty and each one of us always “saves space” for their favorite course – mine are the dumplings! For someone who doesn’t eat any seafood (me) it can be quite an ordeal as part of the tradition is you must at least try each dish to bring you luck for the coming new year.

Putting Up The Tree

According to a very old tradition the Christmas Tree was to be put up on Christmas Eve; however nowadays with Christmas enthusiasts such as myself, first weekend of December is usually when family would get together and put up the tree. If it was up to me, I’d put it up in November!

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Our parents have raised us with an ideology that nobody should go hungry at Christmas & if a stranger knocks on your door on Christmas Eve you should welcome him/her and offer them a seat at your table. Therefore whilst setting up the table we set up one extra setting for this “wondering soul” in the event they show up at your door. Some also light a candle & leave it at the windowsill at the front of the house to let those travelers know they’re welcome in their household.

Straw Under The Table Cloth

Another old tradition is that you should place a little bit of dry straw under the table cloth. This tradition dates back to Pagan Times when the Pagans worshiped a God of crops & soil. The straw represents the donation/sacrifice to represent their faith and beliefs to their God. For us its more of a tradition rather than an actual religious meaning.  We don’t place the straw under the tablecloth, we place it on a little plate on which we put Body of Christ. (More about that shortly).

The Dinner

Traditionally dinner is supposed to begin when it’s dark outside & the first star makes an appearance on the sky.

Body of Christ (which is exactly what you get during communion in the church) is our first “course”. This can be easily purchased in the parish or catholic shops such as Veritas. Each person receives a square of the Body of Christ and each family member privately exchanges well wishes for the upcoming year to one another. This is my least favorite part of the dinner as it can get quite awkward. 

Also, it’s a very old Eastern European tradition that whilst preparing the carp you cut off few fish scales and put them aside to dry. Once they fully dry, couple of them along with a €1.00/1 zloty coin are placed under each plate setting. The fish scales are then put into your wallet at the end of dinner to bring you financial luck for the upcoming year, whilst last years are disposed of.

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Once the dinner is over the whole family helps to clear the table and we then proceed to open our gifts.

Few days after Christmas but before the New Years Eve a local priest comes into your home to bless it with Holy Water for Prosperous New Year.

Now that I’m married, I also have the traditional turkey dinner on the 25th of December and receive more gifts on the morning of Christmas Day from my husbands family (I’m a very lucky girl!)

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What are some of your Christmas Traditions? Where do you come from? Are they similar to what we do in Poland? I’d absolutely love to hear what you do at home with your family – cultural differences are really some of my favorite things to talk about.

Joanna x