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If you ever end up spending Christmas in Poland, we have some good news and some bad news. It will be the warmest, most unforgettable Christmas experience — but some of the traditions might be too surprising to face unprepared.
How to Survive Polish Christmas
Read Culture. Despite Poland being no stranger to the annoying trend of Christmas commercialisation, many old traditions have been well-preserved, and people in Poland are very serious about carrying them on.
Thus, Polish Christmas is full of charming moments and customs, although some of them may seem a little surprising to an outsider. The question may occur: why are we even writing about it, given that Christmas is a family thing and an outsider is not very likely to take part in it?
The answer is: nothing could be more wrong. Poles are generally known for their outstanding hospitality, but when mid-December comes, it rises to the level of pure insanity. Rejecting them for any other reason than spending the evening with your own family, or another family that has already invited, you should not even be considered.
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Unlike in other parts of the world, Christmas Eve, known as Wigilia in Polish, is the centre of celebrations here. This is the day when entire families meet, dine together, give presents, and all that other good stuff.
Tradition demands not sitting down to eat before the first star appears in the sky. Kids, impatient for the dinner to start, will usually glue their noses to the window and anxiously wait for the first star to glimmer.
Christmas dress code is far from official, so the only advice we can give you is: the more traditional the family you spend Christmas with, the more formal the clothes you should wear.
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This tradition might seem tricky unless you learn a few simple rules. Now, you can eat the snippet you were given and go do the same with the next person.
This friendly ritual commemorates the sharing of bread during the Last Supper. The first thing to know about Christmas in Poland is that traditionally the host is supposed to prepare 12 dishes — yes, 12 dishes, and not random ones either. Honestly, this can be surprising for a newcomer.
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Even though herrings are quite popular in other parts of Europe, rarely do you see them swimming in sour cream. The appropriateness of the mixture of salty raw fish with a sour, dairy-based sauce is debatable, to say the least. We owe you quite a horrid disclaimer here. Carp is best served as fresh as possible.
This meant that for years, people kept them in their own bathtub until 24th December. Accounts of foreigners being absolutely shocked by this view are omnipresent in reportages about Poland and have made this photo iconic:.
Apart from them being very likely stuffed with dried forest mushrooms, these are usually a pure delight and one of the few occasions to actually eat something filling. The good news is that even non-Poles almost universally appreciate kutia and makowiec … And the last dish on the list? Traditional gingerbread. However, bringing your own alcohol or bringing it as a welcome gift is risky — more traditional hosts can be touchy on the subject. No matter what people say, we all know everybody is waiting for their Christmas presents.
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They are, after all, the ones who drive this tradition. This is why Poles never attach signed Christmas cards indicating who bought a gift. No matter how painstakingly you hunted for that ideal present for your relative, the only thing you can do to let them know is to discreetly take them aside and whisper it in their ear. One of the most beautiful Christmas customs is the joint singing of carols.
Unfortunately for a foreigner, there is a very wide set of Polish standards, so it can be a bit overwhelming. Forewarned is forearmed, they say Have fun!
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How to Survive Polish Christmas. How do I get invited? When do Poles celebrate? Polish Christmas Eve Traditions. How to dress?
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Before dinner: sharing Christmas wafer. Vegan Dishes for Polish Christmas. Alcohol or no alcohol?
Singing carols. The Power of Polish Christmas Carols. Final words. Written by Wojciech Oleksiak, 24 Nov Language English.