Christmas around the World – Poland

Every day this week, we will be looking at the yuletide traditions of a different country. Today we look at Poland. If you thought Christmas dinner had waistbands groaning in Britain, just wait till you hear about the 12-course extravaganza Poland has to offer!

Further into mainland Europe, Poland celebrates the Advent with carol singers wandering through towns and villages singing, reciting poems and sometimes performing the Nativity. Christmas Eve, the most important day of the festive season and otherwise known as Wigilia, is celebrated with a large twelve dish feast. It traditionally starts when the first star can be seen in the sky and typically consists of fish, usually carp, dumplings with mushrooms, cabbage and other vegetarian dishes. Meat is forbidden and there is traditionally no alcohol. The guests should try each dish in order to have a prosperous year and an extra place at the table is left for anyone who may turn up unexpectedly. The traditional food Oplatek, a piece of bread pressed with a holy picture, is shared between family members and immediate neighbours. As part of the sharing ritual, they forgive the other for any hurt caused over the year and wish them all the happiness in the coming year. Gifts are also given after the meal.

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