Poland has many celebrations, and each of them with different customs. Many of these customs go back a thousand years. Through the years the Polish holidays have mixed with the Roman Catholic holidays. The Roman Catholic holidays are not really Polish because the Poles are Catholic. The Poles have modernized some of the ways of celebrating their holidays. Christmas and Easter are the two most important holidays in Poland. They could actually be called the two most important holiday seasons in Poland, because their celebrations last 2 or 3 months.
Christmas In Poland starts on November 12th and lasts until January 6 or February 2nd in some places. Throughout Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, the Poles celebrate many special saints' days. On November 12th, St. Martin's Day, is traditionally a day when Poles feast on roast goose. The Poles, have parties, with dancing on November 25th, St. Catherine's Day, and November 30th, St. Andrew's Day. On St. Andrew's Eve, Poles hold fortune-telling. At midnight, people pour hot wax into a pot of cool water, and as the wax starts to cool, shadows are cast on the wall. The shadows are said to tell the people to expect in the new year. Their dreams that night are supposed to predict the future as well.
Traditionally on December 6th, St. Nicholas day, St. Nicholas usually dressed as a bishop, comes in his sleigh with gifts for the children. Good children would get religious pictures, honey cakes, or other presents. As for the bad children, they would get coal. However, there are few bad children in Poland on St. Nicholas Day. Today St. Nicholas comes dressed more like the American Santa Claus, and not always in a sleigh. Polish children will also get Advent calendars. Each day the boys, and girls would open a door of the calendar. Behind the doors are pieces of candy, or a picture.
There is also plenty of story-telling, baking, and caroling to do. Puppet theaters telling the story are very common in Poland. Pierniki , a type of honey cake, is baked in early December, and since they get better with age, are not eaten until Christmas Eve, December 24th. Pierniki come in many shapes: animals, saints, and nativity scenes are among the many. As Christmas gets close groups of people go house to house singing Christmas songs.
Another Christmas tradition, among Poles, is breaking theoplatek . The oplatek is thin wafer with a Christmas scene on top of it. Poles break off a piece of the oplatek, and share it with family and friends. They may, also send a piece to friends who live far away.
On Christmas Eve, dinner is called the wigilia . There must be an odd number of foods in the wigilia, and is bad luck not to taste everyone of them. After the wigilia, people sing Christmas songs, and open gifts from Santa, or in some places the Starman. On Christmas night, dinner may include ham, sausage, orbigos , a soup made from sauerkraut, and sausage. Other soups, vegetables, and many small cakes are also served. Another tradition is making ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree.
On December 26th, St. Stephen's Day, the Polish are still celebrating Christmas. The
time between St. Stephen's day and New Year's are a time to have parties, visit friends,
and visit relatives. There is certainly plenty to do for Poles in the season of Advent. A
customary Polish Christmas lasts until January 6th, the 12th night, or even until February
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