Welcome To Christmas Around The World
Learn How Other Children Celebrate Christmas From Different Countries!
Say Merry Christmas in Polish
'Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia'
or 'Wesołych Świąt' as a shorter version.
In Poland, an elaborate tradition called Wigilia is celebrated. Beginning on Christmas Eve, a strict 24-hour fast is observed which ends with a huge Christmas feast. In honor of the star of Bethlehem, the meal cannot begin until the first star of night appears. Though Christmas is Poland is officially known as Bozz Narodzenie, it is most often referred to as Gwiazdka, which means "little star." Once the star appears, a special rice wafer blessed by the parish priest called oplatek, is broken into pieces and shared by all. Finally the meal can begin. The feast consists of twelve courses, one for each Apostle. The table is always set with one extra seat in case a stranger or the Holy Spirit should appear to share the meal.
In Poland, Advent is the beginning of Christmas Time. It's a time when people try to be peaceful and remember the real reason for Christmas. People try not to have excess of anything. Some people give up their favourite foods or drinks and parties and discos are not widely held. Some people also go to Church quite frequently. There is the tradition of the 'roraty', special masses (or communion services) held at dawn and dedicated to Mary for receiving the good news from the angel Gabriel.
During Advent, people also prepare their houses for Christmas. There's lots of cleaning and people wash their windows and clean their carpets very thoroughly. Everything must be clean for Christmas day!
Before Christmas, children in schools and preschools take part in "Jasełka" (Nativity Plays). They are very popular and often more secular than religious. The Christmas story is also sometime put into modern times.
The smell of tangerines in schools or workplaces is widely thought to mean that Christmas time is about to start!
Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. It's now often the most important day over Christmas - even though it's not a holiday but Christmas and the 26th December are holidays! Traditionally it was day of fasting and abstinence (not eating anything) and meat is not normally allowed to be eaten in any form.
Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh). The house is also cleaned and everyone gets washed and puts on their festive clothes. The main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening and is called "Kolacja wigilijna" (Christmas Eve supper). It's traditional that no food is eaten until the first star is seen in the sky! So children look at the night sky to spot the first star!
On the table there are 12 dishes - they are meant to give you good luck for the next 12 months. The meal is traditionally meat free, this is to remember the animals who took take of the baby Jesus in the manger. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish. For catholics the 12 dishes symbolize Jesus's 12 disciples. Like in many Catholic countries, Christmas Eve is often a 'fasting day' meaning that some people don't eat anything until after sunset (when the Church day officially ends). So that's where the custom of the first star come from. Some people in central Poland say that at midnight the animals can talk.