Christmas Traditions In Poland

Best Christmas Wishes from eTramping

This year’s Christmas I am spending with my loved ones in my hometown in Poland while Cez is celebrating it in China with friends. We both want to wish you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! We hope that all of your travel wishes will come true in 2015 and you will see beautiful places, meet extraordinary people and do things. Thank you for being with us and following our travel adventures and expat lives on two such different continents.

All the best,
Agness and Cez

Christmas Traditions in Poland

Polish traditions play a significant role at Christmas time. They are, above all, meaningful and beautiful and we are all proud of being so religious and traditional during this special time. It may sound insane, but the preparations for Christmas begin many days before the actual celebration. Some people start preparing food in the first week of December! A week before the Christmas day, every woman is cleaning windows in apartments and houses as it is believed that if a house is dirty on Christmas Eve, it will remain dirty all next year.

Most of ceremonies take place before the Christmas Eve supper. Among farmers, a popular ritual is the blessing of the fields with holy water and the placing of crosses made from straw into the four corners. It is also believed that animals can speak with a human voice. Moreover, straw is put under white tablecloth as some maidens predict their future from the straw. Right after supper, they pull out blades of straw from beneath the tablecloth. A green one foretells marriage; a withered one signifies waiting; a yellow one predicts spinsterhood; and a very short one foreshadows an early grave.

Polish people are well-known for their hospitality, especially during Christmas. That’s why an additional seat is kept for somebody unknown at the supper table (this year we have 4 plates although it was only me, my mom and my brother sitting at the table). We strongly believe that no one should be ever left alone at Christmas, so strangers are welcomed to the Christmas supper (never happened to us, but it does happen to many people).

One of the biggest beliefs in Poland is that whatever occurs on Wigilia (Christmas Eve) has an impact on the coming  year. So, if an argument should arise, a quarrel some and troublesome year will follow (this year I was laughing a lot, spent all day blogging, taking pictures, instagramming and working out so now I know what my 2015 will be like).

In the morning, if the first visiting person is a man, it means good luck; if the visitor is a woman, one might expect misfortune (we had a male visitor in the morning so lucky us). To assure good luck and to keep evil outside, a branch of mistletoe is hung above the front door. Finally, old grudges should end. If, for some reason, you do not speak with your neighbour, now is the time to forget old ill feelings and to exchange good wishes.

  Famous pierogi could not be missed on the Wigilia day

Traditionally, the Christmas tree is decorated on the Wigilia day – quite an event for children. The Christmas tree is usually adorned with apples, oranges, candies and small chocolates wrapped in colorful paper, nuts wrapped in aluminum foil, hand-blown glass ornaments, candles or lights, thin strips of clear paper (angel’s hair), and home-made paper chains.

When the night begins to fall, you can hear stamping and jingling, followed by Christmas carol singing outside. Carolers begin their wandering from home to home. What my family loves is caroling with a crib (szopka) and with a star. Usually, these items are carried by three caroling teenagers. They are given some money.

One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the oplatek (thin wafer made of flour and water).

On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers and waits impatiently for the appearance of the first star. With its first gleam, they all approach a table covered with hay and a snow-white tablecloth. The father or eldest member of the family reaches for the wafer, breaks it in half and gives one half to the mother. Then, each of them breaks a small part from each other’s piece. They wish one another a long life, good health, joy and happiness, not only for the holiday season, but also for the new year and for many years to come. This ceremony is repeated between the parents and their children as well as among the children; then, the wafer and good wishes are exchanged with all those present, including relatives and even strangers.

Afterwards, they all sit down and enjoy a tasty though meatless supper, after which they sing koledy (Christmas carols and pastorals) until time for midnight Mass, also known as Pasterka (“the Mass of the Shepherds”).

Do you have any special traditions in your home country you would like to share?

This post was originally published in
About Agness

Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"


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46 Comments

  • Fascinating! You have some pretty wonderful traditions in Poland and I must admit that I found some similarities with our Romanian customs.
    Happy Holidays, Agness!

  • “if the first visiting person is a man, it means good luck; if the visitor is a woman, one might expect misfortune” – we have the same belief in Ukraine. My mother used to ask my cousin brother to come and visit us early in the morning :)

  • It’s interesting to here of different Christmas cultures around the world. Does anyone want to hear about America’s? (I’m just guessing everyone knows since we like to talk about ourselves all the time.)

    Maybe someday I’ll spend Christmas in Poland just to see what it’s like. :D

  • Meatless? That’s unexpected for Christmas Eve dinner..
    Anyway, Polish Christmas sounds so awesome, laced with so much tradition!

  • Now, that is a Christmas dinner table I would like to sit down with you and your family at, Agness! I will take the serving the dish of all of the pierogi’s! I love the family photo of the 3 of you…and your mom is so beautiful! My best to you and Cez always :)

  • Love traditions! I’d happily eat pierogi at next Christmas eve too, simply love them, actually I don’t have to wait till next year :)

  • Beautiful post! I really like the tradition of leaving one seat for a stranger to join for supper. That’s so adorable! It’s terrible to be alone at Christmas.

  • I hope, you had wonderful Christmas days in Poland and China, Angess and Cez. Thank you so much for sharing the Christmas traditions of Poland with us, Agness. I liked it so much that I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know much about typical german Christmas traditions, but I am a huge fan of german Christmas markets.

    All the best for the new year to both of you and always safe and happy travels.

  • Interesting to learn about more of the Christmas traditions in Poland! Hope you had a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year :)

  • Lovely to hear about these Christmas traditions in Poland – love the one about cleaning your windows! Also interesting to hear how the tree is decorated with fruits and sweets as you often don’t see that on English trees which usually have other types of decorations but not so commonly fruits. Lovely post. Merry Christmas!

  • I love the routine, and the idea that other people around Poland are doing the same things. Especially things like seeing your neighbors cleaning when you’re cleaning too, it just seems extra cozy.

  • One of my favourite things about traveling is learning about the traditions of other cultures. I haven’t yet been to Poland so am very happy that you’ve shared this! Happy holidays!

  • These are such beautiful traditions, Agness! I love the idea that however Christmas Eve is spent will set the tone for the New Year. I spent it eating and drinking (a lot) – no change for 2015, then :-)

    Happy New Year in advance x

  • These are lovely traditions Agness. I so love Poland as you know. :) I think everybody pretty much knows about British traditions at Xmas, but perhaps I’d add that when we were children, we used to go carol-singing door-to-door, for charity. You didn’t need to be an expert and you had to have at least an adult with you as we sometimes went further than our local neighbourhood…
    We would ring the bell and start singing as soon as someone came to the hallway. If you wanted to get rid of us, mince pies, sausage rolls, and a few coins in the kitty worked best LOL!
    Have a great festive season guys and see you in the New Year. :)

  • Firstly, Agness I’d like to wish you, Cez and all your family and friends the warmest of Christmas greetings and best wishes for 2015.

    It is lovely to hear that you made it home for Christmas.

    After reading this I want a Polish Christmas! The traditions and the whole spirit of the celebration and friendliness to strangers and foes is really lovely. It truly is time for goodwill.

    Have the traditions of Christmas decorations existed for a long time in Poland? In England the idea of putting up a Christmas tree only really took off from Prince Albert of Queen Victoria and Albert.

  • Loved this post! I’m kind of Polish (a quarter) and do Polish dance as a way of trying to get in touch with my heritage. Going to have to refer to this post next year to get in the tradtional spirit!

  • I’ve read so much about Christmas in Poland recently – it seems really enchanting! One day I’ll try and be there!

  • W tym roku juz drugi raz spedzilam Swieta poza domem i mimo ze bylam Gili Air (przepiekna wyspa!) w Indonezji to mimo wszystko brakowalo mi polskiego klimatu Wigilii..:) Zamiast pierogow na kolacje zjadlam frytki, zamiast “Cichej nocy” zespol gral piosenki Boba Marleya, a zamiast sniegu byl piasek – wszystko inaczej:D! Mimo wszystko bylo naprawde super, tylko teraz przez chwile uklulo mnie w serduszku jak zobaczylam Wasze zdjecia;p
    Btw, super blog! Jak bede miala troche wiecej czasu na pewno siade i przeczytam wiecej, porady w stylu “XXX for less than 25 bucks” to to co lubie najbardziej:D Pozderki z Jakarty!

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