To my International Readers
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Polish customs at Christmas time are beautiful
Here are six of the most important traditions:
1. OPLATEK. Before sitting down at the table, everyone breaks the traditional wafer, or Oplatek and exchanges good wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the New Year. For many it is a deeply moving moment. Oplatek is a thin, unleavened wafer similar to the altar bread in the Roman Catholic Church. It is stamped with figures of of baby Jesus, Mary and angels. The wafer is known as the bread of love and is often sent by mail to the absent members of the family.
2. AN EXTRA PLACE. A lighted candle in the window symbolizes hope that Jesus, in the form of a stranger, will come to share the Wigilia. Hence an extra place is set at the table for this hoped for guest. This belief stems from the ancient Polish proverb, „A guest in the home is God in the home.”
3. WIGILIA is a meatless meal […] Traditionally served dishes include mushroom soup, boiled potatoes, pickled herring, fried fish, pierogi (dumplings,) beans and sauerkraut, a dried fruit compote, […], assorted pastries, nuts and candies.
4. GIFTS. After the meal family members sing Christmas Carols called koledy. Christmas gifts are exchanged that evening.
5. CHRISTMAS CAROLS […] Polish Christmas Carols or koledy are numerous and lovely. They are performed beautifully in Polish churches as part of the Christmas Eve Mass.
6. PASTERKA. Christmas Eve Mass is called Pasterka, which means Shepherds Watch, and there is popular belief in Poland that while the congregation is praying, peace descends on the snow-clad, sleeping earth and that during that holy night, the humble companions of men – domestic animals – speak with human voices. But only the innocent of heart may hear them.