The major Christmas celebration in Poland takes
place on "Wigilia," which is Christmas Eve. Traditionally,
Wigilia is a time for forgiveness and a fresh start. A 12-dish,
meatless dinner is served before other festivities begin.
Steps: 1. Clean the house and trim the Christmas tree during
the daylight hours. In rural Poland, these are traditional Christmas
Eve activities, and Poles fast until dinnertime.
2. Decorate according to Polish folklore: Hang mistletoe over
the front door to ward off evil; place wheat in the dining room
corners and under the tablecloth to chase away misery.
3. Set the table with a white tablecloth. Set one extra place
setting to remember absent family members or accommodate an unexpected
guest. According to custom, the dinner begins with a prayer and
sharing of blessed Oplatek bread to represent Communion.
4. Light the tree and serve dinner (see "How to Prepare
a Traditional Polish Christmas Eve Dinner") after the first
star appears in the sky. The first star commemorates the birth
of Christ and represents the star of Bethlehem.
5. Exchange gifts after dinner is finished.
6. Give the family pet a special treat after dinner, as in Poland
the head of the household would take a treat of dinner leftovers
to the animals in the barn. Polish folklore explains that animals
can speak in human voices on Christmas Eve.
7. Sing Polish Christmas carols. Carolers in Poland visit neighborhood
households from Christmas Eve through the end of the holiday season
on January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings.
8. Enjoy a brisk sleigh ride with friends and family, and serve
refreshments afterward. In Poland, this is known as a "kulig."
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