Christmas in Poland; St. Nicolaus Day (Dec. 6) & more (I)

Polish name for 'Christmas' is 'Boze Narodzenie' (direct translation from 'God's birth') .

From religious point of view Christmas is considered the second important feast (after Easter) but it is definitively the biggest family gathering and reconciliation day during the year in Poland.

Christmas and St.Nicolas Days are not celebrated in the same time in Poland but three weeks apart.

St. Claus (called rather St. Nicolas) Day is celebrated on the December 6th, name-day of St. Nicolas. This is a day when St. Nicolas, in Polish: Sw. Mikolaj, is visiting all kids - some children in person during the evening, some secretly during night. In some regions of Poland only St. Claus was bringing gifts on the 6th of December. Gifts were not given under Christmas tree during Christmas!

There is one gift that almost all children in Poland receive from Santa. Something not known in American tradition... It is a birch for beating (Polish, "rozga").

Usually it is attached to the bag with candies and it serves as a warning for all kids that if they would not improve their behavior the only gift they will receive next year... will be just a bigger birch and nothing else. But, nobody takes it seriously, although mischievous kids as a rule receive usually bigger birches than the good ones.

As you probably know St. Claus Day originates from orthodox religious tradition. But it was communistic Russia that first replaced St. Nicolas with "Grandfather Frost" in the attempt to erase any religious meaning. Polish communistic rulers also tried to obliterate any religious connotations of Christmas.
At the bottom of the article you would find an address to European Santa, his headquarters are located in Rovaniemi, Finland near the arctic circle. Read more about Who and When brings Gifts to Polish Children during Christmas Season.

Christmas officially was known as the Family Day, Winter Holiday, the old name - Little Star Day (Polish "Gwiazdka" - since the new star pointed place of Jesus birth). The word "Jesus" or "God" was avoided as much as possible by communistic propaganda.

Preparations for Christmas begin many days before the actual ceremony.People are cleaning windows in their houses and apartments just before Christmas. It is hard to believe - but the cleanest windows I ever seen - were in the most polluted region of Poland, Silesia (Southwestern part of Poland with a capital in Katowice). Silesia is known for a heavy industry, dozens of coal mines. Nevertheless the houses windows there are usually perfect clean, not only during Christmas. The houses are also cleaned inside thoroughly.

Christmas of course is a commercial heaven but not to such degree as in the USA.

But even during communistic times when the shops were very poorly supplied on a daily basis, during Christmas stores were equipped in products better and nicely decorated. Farmer markets are crowded with people who want to buy some rare components for Christmas food, Christmas trees and decorations. I have to add that some food products can be bought only before Christmas since some of Christmas dishes are prepared only once a year, just for Christmas. Certain types of groats or seeds are available only during this time of the year and only in the certain regions of Poland where people used to eat it through generations. For instance carps are eaten just this single day during the year (like turkey in the USA during Thanksgiving). A couple of days before Christmas Eve farmer markets are changed into fish markets with carps and other fish almost everywhere available as alive, fresh and frozen. Shops are crowded and streets of many cities are embellished with Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, branches and colorful lights.

Read more about "roraty" and religious aspects of Christmas and about Christmas food. Search through all Christmas articles.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #17

Address of Santa:

Santa Claus
Main Post Office
Arctic Circle

Check our
Christmas articlese for a broad selection of articles devoted to Polish Christmas
Christmas Music Store for a wide selection of Polish and Polish-American carols and also some Christmas books

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