As you know, I’ve lived in Poland for 5 years. However, I’ve only experienced 2 real Christmases. It’s really special in Poland because of the traditional dishes and sometimes there’s actually snow, which is a treat. I think it’s only snowed on Christmas once maybe since I’ve lived here? So it doesn’t seem too common. But considering the fact that we can usually wear shorts on Christmas in Florida, it’s kind of a change. I have to say though, I think I need another few Christmases to get used to some traditions here.
Funky foods – I love my Polish family but they eat some strange food on Christmas Eve. I’m not a picky-eater but I think I’m just unlucky because there’s some things which are used a lot at Christmas that I don’t really enjoy. Mouth full of poppy seeds? No thanks.
As far as soups on Christmas go, there are a lot of good options – beetroot soup, mushroom soup, fish soup. Gimme. But for some reason we eat siemieniotka, a soup made from hemp seeds. And, no, it doesn’t make you high (might be more motivation to eat it). Each year I eat it but only the smallest spoonful which is required of me. Never had it? It’s sweet and it has buckwheat in it.
Next are the desserts – moczka? Can’t I get some cake instead? I’m pretty sure moczka is a Silesian dish so for sure not everyone in Poland eats it. Anyway, moczka is a mix of gingerbread, compote (so like juice made from fruit, water, and sugar. There’s no good translation.) nuts, dried fruit, dark beer, honey. It’s the consistency of a thick soup. You could also eat makówki, a dessert made from poppy seeds, nuts, raisins, honey, milk, and bread. Not a fan of those but everyone else freaking loves them. It’s like their favorite part of Christmas. (edit: I just remembered about susz, compote with smoked fruit. why smoked!! normal compote is so yummy).
Don’t get me wrong, aside from those things, everything is delicious. Especially on Christmas Day!
Gifts from Santa and baby Jesus – In Poland, you receive little gifts like what we receive in stockings (those big socks) on December 6 – Santa Claus day. And on Christmas Eve, you get your present from none other than baby Jesus (at least in Silesia). I’ve heard though that in Poznań it’s actually Grandfather Frost (Dziadek Mróz) who brings them. What’s it like in other parts of Poland?
Giving wishes – Poles love wishing each other happiness, health, money and all that kind of stuff. Not only on Christmas but also birthdays as well. For me, giving formal wishes is extremely intimate. You get all close up in someone’s face, break off a piece of their wafer (opłatek, like what you eat for communion), look them in the eyes and tell them something nice. Maybe I’m just an introverted freak and that’s why this makes me uncomfortable but I never know what to say so I just say the same thing to everyone.
Decorating the tree on Christmas Eve – In our house, we have to make a compromise each year. The Christmas tree usually goes up somewhere between when Americans would put them up (first week of December) and when Poles would (Christmas Eve). December 15 or so is a good middle ground. I think a lot of Poles keep the tree up until the middle of January. I’m so sick of Christmas stuff after the fact that it has to be taken down right after New Year’s.
Killing the Christmas carp. This is actually kind of a badass part of Christmas. A lot of people I know have horror stories from their childhood of seeing their dads kill the carp with a hammer after it swam around in their bathtub for a few days. Polish dads are the real deal. I guess it’s fresher that way but why not just buy it the day before and be able to use your bathtub?
I was trying to think of some weird traditions in America, but honestly, America is so mixed up in terms of traditions, it really just depends on the family. I have some friends who roast entire pigs on Christmas or decorate giant gingerbread houses. Most people get drunk off eggnog at company parties, which is similar to ajerkoniak. Mmm speaking of eggnog, that’s one of the things about Christmas in America that I miss. You can buy eggnog at any supermarket. Delish, but it’s so thick and creamy you can only drink one glass.
When I was a kid, a lot of our Christmases were spent at a hotel about 30 minutes from our house, which we loved going to and spending Christmas at. So we often had non-traditional Christmases and therefore we don’t really have any special Christmas dishes because we didn’t eat dinner at home. Anyway, it’s nice to make your own traditions. We also spent many Christmas Eves at church singing carols and lighting candles. It was a nice atmosphere, even if there’s no snow 🙂
So those of you who live in different parts of Poland, or those of you with other traditions, could you let us know what you do on Christmas? The weirder, the better!
Like I said in the video, Wesołych Świąt, Merry Christmas, Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku and Happy New Year! kisses!