Christmas in Poland
Christmas in Poland is a major annual celebration, equivalent to Malaysian’s Chinese New Year; Hari Raya Puasa or Deepavali. Just like Chinese New Year is a time for families to be together, Christmas is the centrepiece of celebrations in Poland and a time for the entire families to meet and celebrate together.
The Christmas Eve dinner (Wigilia) is similar to Chinese New Year eve reunion dinner, is the most important day of the festival. When my Polish language teacher shared the ways how Polish prepare for Christmas, surprisingly its very much similar with Chinese New Year activities.
For example, preparation begin many days before Christmas. Polish would prepare the famous gingerbread dough that has to stay in a fridge for at least a week before baking, perform deep house cleaning and prepare traditional decorations even weeks before the celebrations.
Polish believe that everything that happens on the day of Wigilia will have an impact on the following year. It’s connected to multiple interesting superstitions. Thus, they try to keep themselves busy on the whole of Dec 24th in order not to be perceived as lazy on the next year. Quarrels are avoided by any means, otherwise the involved parties would continue fighting for the whole upcoming year. All the items and money borrowed earlier that year should be returned before the Eve and all kind of mess in the house cleaned up before Wigilia starts, or else they would keep that “unfinished” state for the whole next year. These show similar practice to Chinese New Year superstitions to me. 🙂
Besides, it has commonality with Malay tradition too. One of the significant example is the Polish tradition requires not sitting down to eat before the first star appears in the sky. It reminds me of the Malay tradition to observe moon for buka puasa time.
Another example is many Polish people are fasting the whole day of Christmas eve before Wigilia starts. This was meant to be also a test of strength and durability, seen as having an impact on the following year.
But they are differences too.
By tradition, Polish will prepare an extra seat at the table including the tableware, for an unexpected guest. It could be someone in need, the poors, or those without a family, since nobody should spend Christmas alone. Their Wigilia typically comprises of 12 dishes, all prepared from various kinds of grains, vegetables and fish (most popular being herring and carp). Meat is forbidden on the whole day of 24th Dec.
After all the dishes are consumed, Polish sing traditional Christmas Carols, followed with gifts sharing. The day ends at about midnight on 24th Dec.
Lastly, the festive atmosphere would not be complete without a Christmas tree. The tradition of decorating Christmas trees came to Poland from Germany in the 18th century. Before that, Polish hang the top of a fir, a pine or a spruce from the roof, and place a sheaf of corn at the corner. The trees are meant to protect the house and its inhabitants from evil. The star that is often put at the top symbolises the Star of Bethlehem. Decorated with trinkets and Christmas ornaments, the Christmas tree usually stays in the house until Epiphany (6 January).
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