In Poland, Advent is the beginning of Christmas Time. It's a time when people try to be peaceful and remember the real reason for Christmas. People try not to have excess of anything. Some people give up their favourite foods or drinks and
parties and discos are not widely held. Some people also go to Church quite frequently. There is the tradition of the 'roraty', special masses (or communion services) held at dawn and dedicated
to Gabriel. During Advent, people also prepare their houses for Christmas. There's lots of cleaning and people wash their windows and clean their carpets very thoroughly. Everything must be clean
for Christmas day!
Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day.
Traditionally it's a day of fasting and abstinence (not eating anything) and meat is not normally allowed to be eaten in any form. A special Christmas Eve meal called Wigilia (pronounced
vee-GHEE-lee-uh) is eaten after the first star has been seen in the sky. It's also all meat free and might consist of Barszcz (beetroot soup), Uszka (mushroom ravioli), Pierogi (Pasta dumplings
filled with either cheese and potato or cabbage and mushroom) and fish dishes (normally carp and herrings).
If the Christmas Tree hasn't been put up before hand, it's also brought in and decorated with tinsels, lights and glass balls. Gold, silver gold and white chains resembling long, silver and
glittering hair is also hung on the tree and a star is placed on the top.Nativity Cribs are also common decorations and Children take part in Nativity plays at schools and in Churches. People in Poland also like kissing under the mistletoe!
After that the house is cleaned again and everyone also gets cleaned up and puts on their
festive clothes. People are normally very hungry on Christmas Eve, as it is traditional that no food is eaten until the first star is seen in the sky! So children look at the night sky to spot
the first star!
At the beginning of the meal, a large wafer biscuit called an 'Oplatek', which has a
picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on it, is passed around the table and everyone breaks a piece off and eats it. Sometimes a small piece may be given to any farm animals or pets that the family
may have. A place is often left empty at the meal table, for the Christ Child, as in the Czech Republic.
Sometimes straw is put on the floor of the room, or under the table cloth, to remind
people that Jesus was born in a stable or cow shed.
The meal consists 12 dishes of mostly fish (as meat used to be forbidden), mushrooms,
puddings and cake. Common dished include pierogi, bigos and karp (carp). Like in many Catholic countries, Christmas Eve is often a 'fasting day' meaning that some people don't eat anything until
after sunset (when the Church day officially ends). So that's where the custom of the first star come from.
Later children check the presents under the tree and give them out.
After the meal, the candles on the Christmas Tree are lit and people eat, talk and sing carols. Children sometimes dress up as characters from the
Christmas story and go carol singing.
Christmas Eve is finished by going to Church for a Midnight Mass service.
The days after Christmas are often spent with family and friends.
Polish Children also often get dressed up and go carol singing on Epiphany,