wHAT ARE THE TRADITIONS OF A POLISH CHRISTMAS?
hay under the tablecloth
carp... main dish
extra plate... for unexpected visitor
I think a 13th person sat at the table is unlucky (not sure)
clean the windows
clean the house
go to church (a bit more often at Christmas time)
Don't forget 6th December... Santa Claus Day
An angel or starman brings the prezzies 24th December.
Leave a window open 24th December... for angel, starman, santa... to deliver prezzies
Others will contradict and or add more. It depends on the region you live in.
As a Christian nation from the time it emerged in 966, Poland has celebrated Christ’s birthday in accordance with European-wide tradition, while enriching the festivities with its own unique customs and folkways. The way we perceive Christmas we largely owe to St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), an Italian monk who was the first to create a visual portrayal of the nativity scene using live people and animals. Over the centuries it has evolved into a variety of customs including jasełka (nativity play), żłóbek (Christmas crib), herody (humorous skit about the wicked King Herod) and a wide variety of szopka (nativity scene) traditions ranging from puppet theaters to house-to-house caroling with a Christmas crib to that fabulously colorful, cathedral-like Kraków crèche (szopka krakowska). Many other Christmas customs reflected the fact that Poland was a largely agrarian nation, closely tied to the soil and therefore on intimate terms with crops, livestock, the weather, seasons and other manifestations of God’s good earth.
The most common name for Christmas is Boże Narodzenie which can be translated into English as the Birth of God or the Divine Birth. It is also known as Gwiazdka (little star or feast of the star) -- a reference to the Star of Bethlehem which, according to the New Testament, led the Three Kings to our Savior’s lowly place of birth. The term Gody means Christmas Holidays (literally: years -- because the festivities stretch from the old year well into the new) and refers to the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25 - January 6). The term Godne has since fallen into disuse.
In the broadest of terms, the main difference between the Christmas then and now was that the old-style festivities were more participatory in nature rather than being a spectator event. The decorations, artifacts and foods were mainly home-made, not store-bought, and people found ways of keeping themselves involved and entertained wtihout the benfit of the TV, VCR, DVD, Internet or stereo. In the olden days, everyone in the family -- even children as young as four or five -- had tasks cut out for them, so they made an actual contribution to the festivities and appreciated them all the more as a result. Another thing that sets Polish Christmas apart to this day it the importance of the sacred and symbolic and the way it permeates individual beliefs, practices, decorations and even the food.
Advent, the period of spiritual preparation for Christmas, got its name from the Latin prayer which contained the words: Paratus sum ad Adventum Domini (I am ready for the coming of the Lord). Like Lent, it is a time of prayer and fasting, but the abstinence is less rigorous and the general mood more hopeful than penitential. In the Mazowsze and Podlasie regions, the trumpeting of the ligawka or legawka, a long shepherd’s horn, was heard throughout Advent. It was said to remind the faithful of the Last Judgment when the Archangel Gabriel is expected to sound such a trumpet.
The sound of the ligawka also called the faithtful to a daily early-morning Mass known as Roraty. It got its name from Rorate coeli, the first words of a hymn which mean: Rain your dew-drops, o heavens. The Mass began (and still begins) before the break of dawn as a reminder that the world had been immersed in the darkness of sin, when Jesus, the Light of the World, was born. The tradition came into its own in 13th-century Kraków under Prince Bolesław the Bashful.
St Kinga (1234-1292), the Hungarian-born wife of Poland’s Bolesław the Bashful, is credited with bringing the nativity scene to Poland. Known for her great piety, Kinga (also known as Kunegunda) greatly admired the Italian, St Francis of Assisi, who had set up the first Christmas crib in a church in 1223. The story of Jesus’ birth was portrayed by life-size statues or re-enacted by people (usually monks, seminarians or others associated with the church) for the benefit of largely illiterate medieval congregations. In time, these portrayals became increasingly elaborate. Eventually, nativity puppet stages emerged, and in the 18th century the mechanized crèche first made its appearance.
As more and more secular, even humorous elements began creeping in, the once pious congregations began acting more and more like audiences watching jugglers and other entertainers at open-air markets. They pushed, shoved and crowded round the jasełka (nativity scene), laughed, screamed and shouted. In fact, things got so unruly that in the mid-18th century the ecclesiastical authorities banned such nativity presentations from churches. The custom was taken over of by poor students who entertained townsfolk by donning makeshift ‘biblical’ costumes or staging nativity puppet shows house to house.
As for the actual construction of the crèche, in Poland the nativity scene was usually portrayed in a wooden, often thatched-roof stable, or something that vaguely resembled a church or the housing of a wayside shrine. This was unlike the grotto-type shelter used to depict Christ’s birthplace in Italy and other southern lands. The Christmas cribs ranged from the primitive-rustic model typical of the countryside to more refined styles encountered in towns. But absolutely nothing can compare with the breath-takingly beautiful szopka krakowska (Kraków Christmas crib).
What is known today as the szopka krakowska is an urban art-form of relatively recent vintage. It all started round the mid-19th century, when Vistula rafstmen and workmen needed a source of income during the off-season. Some began whittling nativity figurines and fashioning ‘stables’ in which to display them, but they seemed to drew their inspirations from the towers and steeples of Old Royal Kraków. What evolved was a several-story structure far more reminiscent of an Old World Cathedral or story-book castle than the humble stable of Bethlehem.
The crèche-making contest held each year in early December in Kraków’s Rynek Główny (Main Marketplace) goes back only to the 1930s, making it a relatively recent custom as Polish traditions go. Contestants display their entries round the base of the Adam Mickiewicz Monument, and they can be admired all year round in the ethnographic museum housed in nearby Sukiennice (Draper’s Hall).
Dec 16, 09, 22:23 - Thread attached on merging:
Christmas traditions in Poland
Since I moved to Poland more then one year ago, I have been hearing a lot about Polish Christmas traditions. Could anyone tell me all the traditions you have related to christmas eve and christmas day, because I heard there are quite a few.
It would be nice if we could stick to the topic, since I heard of so many nice things like a priest coming to the house, singing, breaking bread and sharing it and others, I would really like to know more about them and where they originate from.
i was told by many friends that at christmas supper that they always set a free space at the table for a guest that has nowhere to go.
that is true and it goes way back to the times when people would stop by. I know that it is not practical anymore since people like yourself spend the X-mas alone, therefore this custom becomes redundant.
At my house we have never had a guest as far as I remember.
1. X-mas Eve is the most important day/evening
2. after the X-mas Eve supper it a tradition to go the midnight mass- Pasterka
3. there should be 13 different dishes
4. my parents used to put some hey under the table cloth
5. X-mas Eve supper has to be vegetarian(no meat)
6. singing Carrols
There are more and I am sure that other poster will contribute and perhaps know about the origin of those customs since I don't:). Also, every household is a bit different.