Poland is overwhelmingly a Roman Catholic country and therefore Christmas Eve and closely followed by Christmas Day are very important occasions to most Poles. Traditionally, Christmas Eve (the 24th) is a day of fasting and abstinence with no meat eaten. A special Christmas Eve meat-free meal called Wigilia is eaten after the first star has been seen in the sky, which at this time of the year in Poland is around 6pm. This meal traditionally consists of twelve dishes, one for each of the twelve apostles. Popular dishes include Barszcz (beetroot soup), Uszka (mushroom-filled ravioli), Pierogi (dumplings filled with either cheese and potato or cabbage and mushroom), various salads, and one or two fish dishes (typically carp, roll-mop herrings or salmon). Sweet dishes often include Poppy seed cakes and Gingerbread.
In many Polish households the main meal on Christmas Day (the 25th December) is similar to that of western countries – a large roast dinner of goose or duck and increasingly turkey with all the usual trimmings. There is no restriction on eating meat on Christmas Day and generally speaking a lot of meat is consumed!
Interesting Polish Christmas facts
Christmas is called ‘Boze Narodzenie’ in Polish, which literally translated means ‘God’s Birth’.
Christmas cards are usually give out to family and friends in the week or two before Christmas.
The traditional Christmas Midnight Mass is called ‘pasterka. which might be translated into English as ‘Shepherd’s Mass’.
Happy/Merry Christmas in Polish is ‘Wesolych Swiat’ / ‘Wesołych Świąt’. Listen to MP3 file.
White wafers, blessed beforehand by the Priest, are broken and shared with the guests present at the Christmas Eve meal.
Legend say that in Poland animals are able to speak on Christmas Eve!
Related content on Polish Poland: Easter in Poland.