The Polish celebrate Christmas in a different way from us. Their focus is on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. During the build-up to Christmas, Poles prepare their houses by intensive cleaning, especially windows and carpets, making sure they are pristine and ready for visitors.
The main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, and is called Christmas Eve supper. It is traditional that no food be eaten until the first star is seen in the sky, and children are encouraged to scan the sky for sight of this star.
Looking for the first star is a reminder of the wise men who followed a star to visit Jesus when He was born. "And behold the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was." (Matthew 2:9)
The traditional Polish Christmas meal comprises 12 dishes, meant to give good luck for the following 12 months. Poland is largely a catholic country and so the meal is usually meat-free, to remember the animals who took care of baby Jesus in the manger. The 12 dishes symbolise Jesus's disciples, and one of the courses is often beetroot soup, a taste I acquired whilst living and working in Poland. Carp is often the main dish, which is traditionally bought live a few days earlier, and swims in the bath until the lady of the house kills it! Nowadays, most people simply buy carp fillet, especially those who only have a shower, and no bath.
Presents are opened on Christmas Eve, too, but not until the meal is finished, and everyone is expected to at least taste each dish. Nativity plays are popular in Polish schools but are often more secular than religious, and sometimes the Christmas story is translated into modern times.
Whatever your plans to celebrate this Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you're with, I truly wish you a blessed, peaceful, safe and healthy time.
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No Christ, no hope - know Christ, know hope.
Love, Ann ❤