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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.
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!)