What are your favorite Polish Christmas traditions? Posted by on Dec 17, 2016 in Culture

Christmas is almost here! What a wonderful time, my favorite time of the year:) And here in New Hampshire we are definitely having white christmas!

I have to admit that it has been 12 years since I spent Christmas with my family in Poland! Way too long…Unfortunately life gets so busy, traveling expensive and sometimes it’s just not possible to do what we want to do:( However, I’m definitely making plans to spend Boże Narodzenie (Christmas) in Poland in the near future!

My Christmas tree this year!

What do I miss the most? I guess everything…Christmas in Poland was always very special to me, spent usually at my grandparents house, with a big family. Christmas Eve was almost more important than Christmas Day. All the kids were waiting for the first star to appear on the sky! Magical, you would think…and it really was! We were not able to sit down at the dinner table, until we spotted that very special first star. A lot of people ask me: “What if it was a cloudy night?” Honestly…I don’t remember cloudy skies…there was always at least one star! I guess Christmas is magical:)

Another thing I miss is sharing opłatek (wafer) with my family…Opłatki wafers are embossed with Christmas-related religious images, varying from the nativity scene, especially Virgin Mary with baby Jesus, to the Star of Bethlehem. Each family member would get a piece of this wafer and before dinner, we would all go around the table wishing each other the best things for the upcoming year and braking a small piece of the opłatek from one another. Everyone had to make sure that they spoke to everyone…so sometimes it made family members, who fought at this time, closer and forgiving!

During Christmas Eve dinner, there was no meat on the table. All the dishes were made without the meat and we were not allowed to have soda (hard to understand for little kids sometimes, so we used to hide soda under the table!) Traditionally you would find kompot (compote) and prune juice (sok z suszonych śliwek) on the table. Tradition calls for twelve courses to be served during Wigilia. All the dishes are meatless and should be made from foods that come from the four corners of the earth: forest, sea, field, and orchard. Even though I love meat, I always really enjoyed Wigilia (Christmas Eve) dinner. You are suppose to try each single dish…possible, but not always doable:) My favorite dishes were:

Kapusta z grzybami (Sauerkraut with mushrooms), ryba po grecku (Greek style fish – with tomato sauce), karp smażony (fried karp fish) and pierogi z grzybami (dumplings with mushrooms)!

Other popular dishes during that night are: barszcz czerwony z uszkami (red beet soup with mushroom dumplings), ryba w galarecie (fish in aspic), śledź w occie (herring in vinegar), szczupak po polsku (pike Polish style), kluski z makiem (noodles with poppy seeds), kutia (christmas wheat berry pudding), piernik (gingerbread), ziemniaki (potatoes), ćwikła (beet and horseradish sauce).

Living on a farm, my parents would always put hay under the tablecloth. Next morning my dad would feed the animals with it. We were always told that it was so special, that animals would talk if they ate it. We waited and waited and waited…they never spoke, but we always hoped they would:)

I also miss going to the midnight mass that night. This Christmas Eve midnight mass is called Pasterka. Church was packed! We were allowed to stay up super late and go to the church with everyone! That way we didn’t have to get up early to go to the morning mass next day.

My parents would cut the tree down couple days before Christmas…and take it down couple days after Christmas…I definitely don’t miss that part. I love that here in US most people decorate their trees at the beginning of December! That way we can enjoy it longer!

I think that we all miss what we love. I love spending time with the family and every little tradition that meant so much to me growing up! Luckily, my husband’s family is so wonderful, that they make being homesick so much easier! They are wonderful and we make beautiful memories together any time of the year.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

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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. Ed B:

    Your Christmas story brings back memories. My parents were born in Poland, but kept up with many of the traditions you mention in this country. One thing my mother always made for Christmas Eve was gifilte fish (We are not Jewish), but I guess she learned because of the large Jewish population in Poland and it is a meatless dish.

  2. Gina:

    Loved reading your memories. My grandfather was from Lublin, my grandmother from another area of Poland. So much of what you wrote is familiar…passed down from my mother. I so wish she had taught me the language!

  3. Henryk:

    Thank you for all your posts. I’ve really enjoyed reading them and hope you are able to continue them next year.
    In the meantime I wish you and your family Wesołych Świąt and a szczęśliwego Nowego Roku.

  4. Pam Prophet:

    Kasia, I love reading your blogs about Poland and the Polish traditions. Putting hay under the table cloth and then feeding it to the animals sounds really special. I would have loved that as a child and think we should add it to our American traditions, even if we have to put a little twist on it to include domestic animals since most of us don’t live on or near a farm…
    looking forward to your next post!

  5. Kim:

    Your tree is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing the wonderful details of your family Christmas in Poland.

    Our Christmas has become a combination of traditions from both of our families. Christmas Eve is formal and traditional. Every year my mom buys my husband and I tickets to the Boston Pops Christmas Eve show. After the performance we have a small dinner, this year it will be Polish mushroom soup and rye bread. We then try to stay awake for church at midnight. Following church we have a meal and a dessert. Sometimes we open a few presents.

    Christmas day is more casual. Santa always leaves a special bag of coffee beans on the counter for my husband. After coffee, we open our stockings from Santa. Midmorning we have a breakfast that always includes warm cinnamon rolls and an egg and veggie casserole. Throughout the day we telephone family, watch Christmas movies and then eat an informal meal later in the day. This year we will have a maple glazed ham from my home state of Iowa. At some point in the day we open the remaining presents but it’s never a set time.