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Why will you be celebrating Sylwester, not New Year’s Eve in Poland? Posted by on Dec 31, 2018 in Countries, Culture, Holidays

Why Polish people ask: “Where are you going to spend Sylwester?” Well, New Year’s Eve is not commonly used expression in Polish vocabulary (I guess it would be translated as “Noc przed Nowym Rokiem”). Insted, Sylwester is a common name used to describe that night.  Saint Sylvester (Święty Sylwester), a bishop of Rome who died in year 335, happened to be a patron of the last day in a year therefore his name is commonly used as a name of this day.

In larger Polish cities New Year’s Eve is often celebrated by open-air concerts featuring Polish music stars. However, what is becoming increasingly common is that people spice up their New Year’s celebrations with unconventional ways of celebrating. A ball 250 metres below the ground in the Bochnia Salt Mine or, less deep underground, in the Wieliczka salt mine promises to be an unforgettable experience. Sailing fans can take an organized Baltic Sea cruise and mountain lovers can drink their toasts on the peak of Giewont.

Monastic meditations have been enjoying increasing popularity. Those are a kind of spiritual retreat within the silence of monastery walls. In Poland, such New Year’s Eve celebrations, or “anti-celebrations”, are offered, for example, by the Benedictines in Tyniec or the Franciscans in Kalwaria Paclawska.

Image courtesy pixabay.com

As one folk custom has it, one must bid farewell to old problems before the start of the new year. On New Year’s Eve you should write down everything that worries you on a red paper and let it burn. Old problems will be consumed in the New Year’s flame once and for all.

Fireworks are lit and seen in the skies above many cities in Poland around midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Many people toast drinks to farewell to the old year and welcome the New Year at this moment. It is also customary to wish friends and family a Happy New Year.

Other popular activities include sleigh rides, bonfires, dances, balls (very popular and fancy/elegant), parties and other forms of entertainment to celebrate the welcoming of the New Year.

Sylwester is always fun, no matter how you decide to spend it. My tradition is quiet, yet fun. We always stay home, dance, play games, eat lobsters and drink champagne!

Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku! (Happy New Year!)

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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. Jerry Halkoski:

    Kasia, nie mowie dobrze po polsku although I did attend a five week course in Polish at the Catholic University in Lublin in 2003. I have been to Poland 14 times, the last being in 2015 for a wedding. However, I tend not to study Polish the minute I return home. We are invited to a Goralski wesele in June in Zakopane so I better return to my self study program. Like you , I enjoy skiing, cycling, hiking, kayjaking, in line skating, and used to run and bike competitively. In fact, I have cycled a lot in the greater Lublin area and have cycled and skied in the Zakopane area, both downhill and cross country. However, I will be 80 on February 23 so those activities are not as frequent in life as previously. I do look forward to you blogs. Oh, I love traditional Polish music, the biesada and the Goralski myzyka, My regret in life is that I have not master Polish , sad to say, but I was not raised in a traditional Polish family. My mother was Irish, German-Swiss, & Norwegian, but I consider myself to be a Polish American. In fact, I have played in American Polish “polka bands:” for years and attempt to sing the Polish vocals which I think I do quite well for the most part. Dzien kuje bardzo for your posts.
    Do zobaczenia i na razie.