With two of our team members (Pav and Lucasz) being from Poland, we thought it would be nice to find out more about their Polish Christmas traditions, food and family. So, I’ve spoken to Pav about all things Christmas and he was more than happy to share what it is like to celebrate Christmas in a Polish family…

The biggest difference to a British Christmas is that the Christmas meal and presents happens on the 24th December and the dinner cannot begin until the first star appears, just as it did in the Christmas story. The majority of Poland is Roman Catholic and religion is a huge part of Christmas traditions, including going to midnight mass called ‘pasterka’ on the 24th. Before the meal in the evening, it is traditional to fast and not drink alcohol. Instead, guests drink traditional dried fruit compote during the meal.

Family is also very important and an extra space at the table is set up for anyone who wants to join or to honour friends or family that have passed away. The idea is that unlike Mary and Joseph at the inn, nobody should be turned away if they need a place to go. Every region in Poland has different traditions but this theme is always important and it is most definitely a time for being thankful.

Polish Christmas Traditions – Christmas Dinner

The meal begins after reading a passage from the Old Testament, followed by breaking of the Polish bread ‘Oplatek’ and wishing each other happiness for the coming year. All the food is arranged across the dining table and in traditional households, there are 12 dishes to represent each one of Jesus’ disciples. Unlike most Polish meals, meat is usually replaced with Carp alongside many of the dishes listed below…

  • Bread
  • Carp, fried
  • Beetroot soup with ravioli ‘uszka’ (little ears)
  • Poppy seed roll cake ‘makowiec’
  • Poppy seed based dessert ‘Makowki’
  • Cabbage with split peas
  • Mushroom and cabbage filled dumplings ‘Pierogi’
  • Noodles with poppy seeds
  • Variety of cakes for dessert

After the meal is when family members exchange presents and relax before going to mass. Polish Christmas traditions on the 25th include a ‘posher’ than normal breakfast, including some leftovers from the day before. It is then traditional to attend church again and spend time with family and friends.

Other dates of note include St Nickolas’ Day where children who have been good can expect small gifts on the morning of the 6th December. Polish families also celebrate St Stephen’s Day on the 26th December is to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr. The 12 days of Christmas are also important and run until the 6th January when the Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down.

Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!