by Krystyna Mazur

Christmas is a festive holiday in Poland. Many customs, ceremonies, and beliefs center around Christmas Eve, a special day in Polish homes. An important element contributing to its dignifed atmosphere are Christmas decorations, notably a beautifly adored  Christmas tree.

    Christmas Eve is believed to affect the entire New Year.  For this reason, it had to be spent in harmony and peace with everyone showing kidness to another.

    Today it is still devoted to long preparations for Christmas Eve dinner. All the work has to be done before dusk. Then they whole family sits down to dine together, in the most important event of the day.

    Traditionally, Christmas Eve dinner begins when the first star appears in the sky. First, there is prayer, sometimes with e reading from scripture about Jesus’ birth. Than the family wishes one another all the best for the New Year and, as a sign of reconciliation, love, friendship, and peace, share oplatek, Christmas wafers, that symbolize holy bread.

    The dinner consist only of meatles dishes. Traditionally, there should be twelve courses, reflecting the number of months in the year. After Christmas dinner, many people end the day by attending the midnight mass known as "Pasterka."

    Today Christmas Eve dinner is sumptuous and diversified. Typical  dishes include red barszcz, beetroot soup with mushrooms or uszka (dumplings stuffed with mushrooms), a plain cabbage dish, or pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, sweet dumplings with puppy seeds, pastries, cakes, fruit; nuts, sweets and compote drink made from stewed prunes, dried pears, and apples.

   The main treat, though is fish. The Polish cuisine is noted for a variety of fish dishes: soups, herring salads, fish with sauce, cream or jelly, fish in aspic, baked, fried, or boiled fish. A traditional Christmas delicacy is carp or pike in grey sauce with vegetables, almonds, raisins, spices, wine, or beer.

   A popular event during the period after Christmas is the Jaselka, a nativity play staged by amateurs. In the country you can still see caroles who go from house to house with a star or nativity crib. Traditionally, they expect to be tripped for the visit; once the payment was in Christmas delicacies, but today these have been largely replaced by small change.

    The carols are often dressed up and improvise scenes that loosely draw upon biblical motifs. Typically, the characters are King Herod, an angel, a devil, death, and sometimes a gypsy and bear or goat.

  *** My  Inspiration story  you can find in the book Heart of the Holidays created by many other  writers who share their International stories