Christmas celebration starts in Poland on 24th of December and most of the traditions are connected with Christmas Eve. It's the most special and meaningful day of the year. On 24th of December Poles gather around the table and eat Christmas dinner. After dinner family sits near Christmas tree, sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts.
Christmas traditions can be different depending on the region. However below you find five most common traditions that are known and practiced in all Poland:
1) 12 dishes: There must be served 12 dishes on Christmas table. Everybody should try every dish, so in the next year nothing will be missing. Number 12 refers to number of the apostles and number of months.
2) Meatless dishes: Meat is not served on Christmas Eve in Poland. On the table, you will find mostly fishes, soups (mushroom, beet), various dishes made of potatoes, sauerkraut, mushrooms, dried fruit compote. The most common „Christmas” fish is carp- before Christmas, you can buy in many markets a live carp. Poles keep live carps swimming in the bath for few days and kill it on the day of Christmas Eve. Carp can be served fried, baked or in jelly form.
3) One empty seat: There should be left at least one empty seat with full tableware in every polish home (plate, cutlery, glass). The place is for stray wanderer- whoever knocks the door on Christmas Eve, should be invited for joining the dinner. Nobody should be alone during that day.
4)Hay under the tablecloth: The hay is put on the table and covered by a tablecloth. It is related to the fact that Jesus was born on a hay in the stable.
5)Sharing the wafer: Before starting eating, Poles share the wafer (in polish „opłatek”) and wish each other all the best.