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real reason for Christmas. People try

not to have excess of anything. Some

people give up their favourite foods or

drinks and parties and discos are not

widely held. Some people also go to

Church quite frequently. There is the

tradition of the ‘roraty’, special masses

(or communion services) held at dawn

and dedicated to Mary for receiving

the good news from the angel Gabriel.

During Advent, people also prepare

their houses for Christmas. There’s

lots of cleaning and people wash their

windows and clean their carpets very

thoroughly. Everything must be clean

for Christmas day!

Before Christmas, children in schools

and preschools take part in “Jasełka”

(Nativity Plays). They are very popular

and often more secular than religious.

The Christmas story is also sometime

put into modern times.

The smell of tangerines in schools or

workplaces is widely thought to mean

that Christmas time is about to start!

Poland is a largely catholic country

and Christmas Eve is a very important

and busy day. It’s now often the most

important day over Christmas - even

though it’s not a holiday but Christmas

and the 26th December are holidays!

Traditionally it was day of fasting and

abstinence (not eating anything) and

meat is not normally allowed to be

eaten in any form.

Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia

(pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh). The

house is also cleaned and everyone

gets washed and puts on their festive

clothes. The main Christmas meal

is eaten in the evening and is called

“Kolacja wigilijna” (Christmas Eve

supper). It’s traditional that no food is

eaten until the first star is seen in the

sky! So children look at the night sky

to spot the first star!

On the table there are 12 dishes - they

are meant to give you good luck for

the next 12 months. The meal is tradi-

tionally meat free, this is to remember

the animals who took take of the baby

Jesus in the manger. Everyone has to

eat or at least try some of each dish.

For catholics the 12 dishes symbol-

ize Jesus’s 12 disciples. Like in many

Catholic countries, Christmas Eve

is often a ‘fasting day’ meaning that

some people don’t eat anything until

after sunset (when the Church day

officially ends). So that’s where the

custom of the first star come from.

Some people in central Poland say

that at midnight the animals can


One of the most

important dishes is

“barszcz” (beet-

root soup) and it’s

obligatory to have

it. If you really

hate it, you can

eat mushroom

soup instead!

The barszcz may

be eaten with

“uszka” (little

dumplings with

mushrooms) or “kroki-