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A worthy Christmas

Country: Poland

Region: Silesia

Type of inspiration: Cultural customs

Biblia - aut. congerdesign, Pixabay Source: Biblia - aut. congerdesign, Pixabay


The Advent period was preparing for the Nativity of the Lord, which was once called the Godnie Holidays. They were preceded by Christmas Eve, which has a special place among annual rituals.

In the old days, it was a day for settling the work of domestic servants and employees. They were paid for their good work and the conditions for the upcoming year were discussed, hence the day was called Generous. In time, the tradition of giving each other small gifts or a kind word included also friends, neighbours, and relatives. However, it was important to follow the principle that young men, who would ensure happiness and health during the upcoming year, took part in these visits. This was celebrated with some vodka - wilijówka or szczodrak.

This day was extremely saturated with superstitions and magical practices. It was believed that souls become exceptionally active, therefore spinning and sewing were put on a hold (so as not to sew the souls to the body permanently), and people blew on seats not to sit down on a soul. It was believed that the course of Christmas Eve would affect the entire following year. That is why people got up early in the morning and did all their chores nimbly so as not to be lazy, quarrels were avoided, and debts were returned.

All activities planned for that day focused on the upcoming Christmas Eve supper and the holidays. Preparing home decorations and the correct dishes for the table was of key importance. Rooms were decorated with live fir or spruce twigs, which were placed behind pictures and around the windows, and the largest bunch of branches or the tip of a coniferous tree was hung upside down, under the ceiling.

The supper constituted the most important part of the day, to which each of the household members sat in festively prepared clothes. On the table covered with a white tablecloth, in addition to dishes specially prepared for the occasion, candles, a cross and the Holy Bible were also placed. Before the meal, a prayer was said and fragments of the relevant Gospel were read, then wafers were shared by the household members, wishing each other all the best. In the northern part of Pszczyna and in the Silesian Beskids, wafers were shared at the end of the supper. The order of the supper was maintained by the eldest family member or the hostess. An important practice for all participants was prohibiting people from leaving the table during the supper (with the exception of the hostess), which ended with prayer and singing carols together. There was also a lot of fortune telling and magical practices during this ceremonial meal. Money was put under the tablecloth so that it would stay with the household members throughout the following year. In many houses, the table was wrapped in an iron chain on which the household members held their feet in order to be a family and ensure good health. After the finished meal, the oldest participant blew out a candle, and the direction of the smoke heralded his future fate - if the smoke rose up, that meant a long life for that person, but if it fell down or moved towards the door, it was interpreted as imminent death.

Biblia - aut. congerdesign, Pixabay Source: Biblia - aut. congerdesign, Pixabay


Edited by ARR S.A. | Silesia

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