Christmas in Poland: Facts About Polish Christmas Traditions

Here are some facts about how Christmas is traditionally celebrated in Poland.

  • During Advent (the period leading up to 25 December) many Polish households bake piernik (gingerbread). Pierniki are made into the shapes of hearts, St Nicholas figures and animals.

  • The figure of St. Nicholas doesn’t really have a role to play on Christmas Eve in traditional Polish celebrations. Instead, he is celebrated on December 6, his saint day, when he delivers presents to deserving children.
  • Polish Christmas trees are traditionally decorated with garlands, fruit, wrapped chocolate, candles, painted eggshells, and other homemade ornaments. At the top of the tree a star is placed.
  • Candles, or sparklers in some homes, are positioned on the Christmas tree and lit on Christmas Eve. Some families leave there tree up until February 2.
  • During Advent oplatek (wafers containing a holy picture) are shared with neighbours and family.
  • Wigilia is the name given to the Christmas Eve meal eaten in Polish homes. Traditional food is served and the meal can often last for more than two hours.
  • Carp is often one of the main dishes, and nearly all families serve barszcz (beetroot soup).
  • Traditionally the meal can’t begin until the first star can be seen in the sky, and sometimes money is placed under the tablecloth for each guest to discover. Sometimes an empty chair is left at the table for the Baby Jesus or a needy traveler.
  • Some families serve 12 dishes at the Wigilia meal, one for each of the 12 Apostles.
  • Many families end their Christmas Eve celebrations by attending Pasterka (Midnight Mass). at their church.
  • In Poland, Christmas Carols are often sung after Christmas Day until February 2.
  • Poland is famed for its hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments and decorations. Most of these are produced in the south of the country.
  • Durign the Advent period, pupils in Polish schools take part in Nativity plays called Jaselka.
  • Apparently, watching the movie Home Alone has become a modern Christmas tradition in many Polish homes.
  • Merry Christmas in Polish is Wesołych Świąt.
  • Christmas presents are customarily exchanged after the meal on Christmas Eve.
  • Polish families spend Christmas Day (the First Holiday) visiting friends and family.

What next? Discover more about Poland.

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