Christmas Traditions in Poland

Christmas is a time of joy and peacemaking, but also a time of remembering our loved ones that have passed away. We can pay tribute to them by cultivating Christmas traditions.

Christmas – a magical time of every year! We spend this night accompanied by our families and people that are close to our hearts. But when we prepare the Christmas Eve dinner, do we even try to care about Polish Christmas traditions? After all, Christmas is not just about fancy Christmas ornaments, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and presents, but primarily about traditions.

Many families don’t cultivate such Christmas traditions as putting hay under the tablecloth, making one extra tableware, or 12 dishes on the table, but to be honest, why do these customs make a Christmas Eve dinner different from a regular everyday supper? In this article we would like to tell you a bit about the origins of some of the Christmas traditions passed down from one generation to another.

The Christmas wafer
Sharing the Christmas wafer is one of the most important and most common traditions cultivated in Polish homes. It originated from old-Polish times, when people shared bread. Nowadays, the Christmas wafer is a symbol of love, friendship and peacemaking, and while we share it, we make wishes to each other. It is also worth mentioning that this is a typical Polish tradition, only cultivated locally.

An extra tableware
An extra tableware at the Christmas Eve table is a symbolic place for a lost, incoming wanderer, which symbolizes to soon-to-be born Baby Jesus.

Christmas Eve dishes
There should be 12 dishes at the Christmas Eve table. Some people also say that an even number is enough but traditionally, there should be always 12 dishes. The dishes appearing on the table should be lenten, and the most typical ones include borsch with dumplings, dumplings with cabbage and mushrooms, and mushroom soup, as well as drought compote, kutia and the dish that is immediately associated with Christmas – the carp.

There is one more tradition associated with the carp, and that is keeping a few scales and giving them to banqueters, who should later put them to wallets. This will give them wealth and money in the coming new year.

Hay under the tablecloth.
Similar to the Christmas wafer, hay under the tablecloth is a custom older than Christmas. This tradition was adapted from pagan beliefs, where it was sacrificed to God. Currently, it symbolizes poverty of the Holy Family.

These are the most common Polish Christmas traditions. It’s definitely worth remembering and cultivating them, because that’s the way we give glory to our ancestors and their traditions.

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