Christmas is a time of family, friends, church, good food and traditions. In Poland, Christmas is a time to share. Poles believe that no on should be alone on Christmas and welcome anyone to their tables. Even the homeless are not forgotten on Christmas. Some are invited for Christmas supper and some are given food so that they do not go hungry. Homes prepare and extra place setting in remembrance of Mary and Joseph.
The Polish Christmas season begins with Advent and finishes with a feast of the Three Kings. Four Sundays prior to Christmas Polish people celebrate the Roraty, an early Mass usually around 6:00 AM. Because it is still dark, worshippers arrive with torches which, along with candles, are lit at some point in the service and add a special ambiance. In homes people make advent wreaths out of bought or hand-picked evergreens. These Christmas wreaths are decorated with nuts, sweets, flowers and stars. Each Sunday a candle is lit until all four candles shine for Christmas. Evergreens are also tucked behind photo frames and decorate entryways in homes.
Mikolaj, or Saint Nicholas, arrives on December 6th. This is the day that Polish children receive their gifts from Mikolaj. Sometimes the gifts are placed under the pillow while the child sleeps and sometimes Mikolaj is at a party which children attend and he presents their gifts to them in person. As a reminder to be good all year long a gold rod is attached to the presents. Mikolaj often has a child say a little prayer or make the sign of the cross before receiving gifts.
Families decorate and light Christmas trees on Christmas Eve Day. The trees are decorated with ornaments made out of blown glass, paper and crystal, homemade ornaments, garlands, apples, walnuts and chocolates wrapped in pretty foil in Christmas shapes such as bells and angels. Lights and candles also decorate the trees.
The Star Supper, or Wigilia, is the meal that families share on Christmas Eve. The youngest is sent outside to wait for the first star. Once the star is spotted Wigilia can begin. The oldest breaks the oplatek wafer and passes it to the next oldest with kisses and well wishes. The oplatek is passed with kisses and wishes until everyone in the family has been blessed. Many families include pets and barnyard animals since animals were among the first to greet Jesus upon His birth. A meatless meal follows with foods such as Christmas Eve borscht, fish, cabbage rolls, pierogi, poppyseed rolls, fruit compote and vodka spiced with honey called krupnik.
Christmas Day is for family and friends, Polish kielbasa, caroling from house to house and recreating the story of the Nativity.
About the Author: Karen Jebbia is a marketing associate of Acadia Wreath Company which sells fresh Christmas wreaths, christmas centerpieces , advent wreaths and kissing ballsmade with Maine balsam fir and shipped throughout the United States at Christmas time. Visit us at www.acadiawreath.com.