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.
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”).