Polish Language Blog

Polish New Year’s Traditions Posted by on Dec 31, 2020 in Culture

2020 has definitely been challenging for everyone! We’ve been confronted with creating and adapting to new ways of working, learning and living our lives amid circumstances that we have never experienced before. But 2020 has also provided a unique opportunity to reflect.

There are lessons to be gleaned that offer important perspective as we approach the New Year.There are 4 words I personally will always associate with 2020: Resilience, Creativity, Reflection and Gratitude. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to underline how many things there are to be grateful for.

As we are preparing to end 2020 and welcome 2021, I wanted to tell you about few traditional things that people in Poland incorporate in New Year’s Eve night celebration.

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

New Year’s Eve is known as Sylwester because it falls on the day of St. Sylvester.

There are definitely more customs and traditions in the villages, but Polish cities are also full of unique ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve as well.

New Year’s traditions in Poland are packed with superstitions (przesądy), all with the goal of making the coming year more prosperous (dostatni) than the last. One of them is definitely having a nice big dinner! In local traditions, it’s important to eat a lot in order to have successful future in the year ahead — you don’t want to let hunger come to the house!

Pickled herring. Image courtesy Pixabay

Bakers sell bread and rolls in the shape of rabbits, sheep, geese, and cows to assure wealth and good luck for the coming year. Round or ring-shaped bread are also popular because they symbolize life coming full circle and eternity. And one food you will most likely find on each table in Poland during that night is pickled herring (śledź) – eating it at midnight to symbolize a prosperous New Year! (I personally love  pickled herring, but I have yet to convince my husband and daughters to enjoy it 🤣). As for dessert – a slice of poppy seed cake (makowiec)  is said to bring you as much money as there are poppy seeds in the cake.

In some villages, straw is the star of New Year’s traditions. Locals wrap fruit trees with straw, to protect them from the devil and to ensure a good harvest in the coming year. In the Northern Poland, locals have a custom of burning straw in front of their houses, which symbolizes leaving behind all the worries and sorrows of the passing year. Kids throw corn and peas at each other — all in the name of luck and money for the new year, of course.

Just like all over the world, in Poland there is the tradition of watching a special fireworks display and drinking plenty of champagne!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Every year I have been spending this night at home with my husband and kids, eating lobsters and enjoying good music. For us not much will change tonight, but for many people this year New Year’s Eve will look different! However you are planning on welcoming 2021, I wish you all the best in the New Year!

Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Frank Polanowski:

    Sto Lat! Still trying to figure out what that really means! I’m a Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian
    mutt, and I’m stubborn enough to wait for an
    intelligent answer!

    • Kasia:

      @Frank Polanowski Frank, it literally means “100 years” and people in Poland sing this song on many occasions, wishing the person 100 years of health and happiness.