Christmas's Pagan & Folk Traditions (II)

Please read the first part of the article. Read also about Pagan Traditions of Spring and Summer in Poland; Midsummer

Weather-forecasting predictions were quite popular during Christmas.

The Easter's weather and the next year weather in general presumably depended on the weather on Christmas. For instance lack of snow during Christmas meant white Easter according to the folks beliefs.

Before Christmas Eve farmers blessed (and still do) their fields with a holy water and placed crosses made of straw in four corners of their field. Sheaves of wheat - usually the sacred last cuts, saved from the year's harvest were brought to adorn the corners of the home to insure a bountiful harvest the coming year. (This custom seems to embrace Christian and folk traditions altogether).

It is also believed that animals can speak with a human voice during Christmas Eve's night. They can also reveal if their owner is mistreating them.

Straw is put under white tablecloth used for Christmas supper almost everywhere in Poland. In the past some maids used to predict their future from the straw. After the supper the maids pulled out blades of straw from underneath the tablecloth. A green one foretold marriage; a withered one-waiting; a yellow one-spinsterhood; a very short one-an early grave.

I remember that my parents always kept a plate with onion cut into twelve pieces, just like twelve months of the coming year, on the supper table during Wigilia's (Christmas Eve). Onion was salted just before the supper. After the supper was finished the onion was carefully analyzed. Some pieces of onion, were usually more wet than the others. So the certain months were predicted to be rainier or drier than others. Of course we never took it too seriously, it was just an old custom to follow. Also small pieces of butter, bread and a coin were kept in the other plate - to ensure enough money and food for the coming year.

Christmas seasons' customs contain some specific Polish tradition.
There is an old habit of carol singers walking from village to village during the twelve days of Christmas (from the Christmas Day, 25th December to the Epiphany, 6th January). The usual name for these boys is "Kolednicy" (carol singers) from the name "koleda" for carols. Sometimes the boys are dressed in masks representing figures from the times of Jesus, one is usually dressed as king Herod and they do carry a star. Therefore they are called "Herody". But there is a Polish accent there also. The oldest form of carol singers is called "chodzenie z turoniem" (in Polish, "Walking with a Tur"). Boys carry a symbol or a mask of a Polish extinct bison called "tur". Usually two people are necessary to make up one tur. This creature was extinct not very long time ago. The last tur lived in Poland in XVII century and was fully protected by Royal decree in that time (too late unfortunately). Tur is known also by a name of auroch or ur. HERE is a fascinating history of auroch (tur) in Poland. So, tur as an animal is long extinct but it survived in the folk tradition.

Read more about this tradition from Okana's website:
**An awesome creature, the Turon was costumed in sheep's wool, adorned with goat's horns, cow's ears, and a horse's tail. His companions drummed, banged pots and rang bells as he approached each home, laughing and dancing. The head of the household answered the door, and the Turon ran in, swirling and leaping, and generally destroying everything he came in contact with. A gift of a drink of miód (mead), krupnik (honey vodka), or some silver would soon find the Turon and his party on their way to the next home, clattering away and chasing the darkness as they went.***


Please, let me know if you know another Polish folk or pagan tradition that takes place during Christmas. I do not want to show any kind of depreciation of the religious character of Christmas as a mainly Christian and religious holiday. I just want to add more light into the origin of some still existing traditions.

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, article #73

I recommend a book written by F. C. Anstruther, J. Sekalski, F. C. Anstrother (Editor), entitled:
Old Polish Legends

Check our
Christmas Music Store for a wide selection of Polish and Polish-American carols and also some Christmas books

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