Christmas in Poland2 min read
What first comes to my mind when I think about Christmas in Poland is tradition and family. However, there is not just one recipe for a traditional Polish Christmas. Despite the influence of popular culture and Western traditions, the customs of regions in Poland are being celebrated.
One of the elements heralding the upcoming Christmas are the colourful Christmas markets, where one can get to know the flavours of regional cuisine, drink grzaniec [mulled wine], as well as buy hand-painted decorations.
At the end of November, the Christmas window displays appear in shops. The cities are illuminated with Christmas lights, which create a unique atmosphere in the evenings. In December in Krakow, Nativity Scene Competition is organised.
According to tradition, Christmas Eve dinner should be started shortly after the first star appears in the sky. Some children look out the window to announce its arrival. Christmas Eve is celebrated on 24 December and begins with the sharing of the opłatek [Christmas wafer] with loved ones.
It is on the Christmas table with 12 dishes that culinary and cultural differences are the most visible. The Kashubian Christmas menu (Northern Poland) is known to include zupa rybna [fish soup] and cake called Miodny Kuch. In Lesser Poland (Southern Poland) on the Christmas table there is zupa grzybowa z łazankami [mushroom soup with small square noodles], fried carp with chałka [challah] as well as dried fruit compote. In the Podlasie region (Eastern Poland), kutia made of poppy seeds, wheat, honey, raisins, and nuts, is served. One of the most popular cakes in this region is sękacz. While in Wielkopolska (Western Poland) the traditional Christmas menu has to contain barszcz z uszkami [borsch with ravioli] as well as strucla z makiem [strudel with poppy seeds]. Poles also love to prepare Christmas gingerbread!
There is an interesting tradition to leave an empty seat at the Christmas table, which in my home was described as “a place for a wanderer”. After the Christmas Eve dinner, it is time for gifts. There are also regional and cultural differences related to this tradition. According to various legends, gifts under the Christmas tree are left by: the Angel, the Baby Jesus, or Dziadek Mróz [Grandfather Frost]. After Christmas Eve dinner, the local community gathers in the church for the Pasterka [Midnight Mass].
Wesołych Świąt! [Merry Christmas]