Polish Christmas Traditions: How Do We Celebrate Christmas in Poland? (2024)

Polish Christmas is something everyone should experience, at least once. It is the most wonderful time of the year, and literally, everyone is celebrating. When you think about Christmas in Poland the second thought should always be “family”. Most people can imagine holidays in Poland without Santa and snow but spending time all alone– is impossible!

Loneliness is the worst thing that could happen to anyone during Polish Christmas, that’s why there will always be one free place at the table at every home, just in case someone will come, uninvited. Such a person will be greeted with a smile and tons of Polish Xmas food!

When you spend Christmas in Poland, traditions play an important part, so let’s explore some of them!

I will include some videos in this post that I made before Christmas of 2022. It was a part of the Polish Online Advent Calendar when I was publishing one video on my YouTube channel, every day explaining Polish Christmas traditions.

Table of Contents

Polish Santa Claus


Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Poland, however, Saint Nicholas is coming really fast in here.

Mikolajki,December 6th, is a day when Santa is giving presents to kids and adults all over the country. The custom is quite popular in schools- kids draw each other’s names a few weeks before Mikolajki. They should buy a gift for a person they drew. The teacher usually sets a price limit for the gifts (for example no more than 50 PLN / $18).

On December 6th, they are bringing the gifts to the school and leaving it in a classroom. It’s quite fun guessing who you got the gift from!

At home, Santa usually comes himself or simply leaves gifts at the door or under the pillow.

I remember when I was a kid and together with my cousins we’ve been waiting for Santa to come. When he was knocking at the door, we started to squeal with joy. Then our parents opened the door and he was no longer there. But he left a huge bag with presents for all of us!

Christmas Eve

Polish Santa Claus is quite generous- he is coming again on Christmas Eve!

Well, to speak more accurately, kids are getting presents again that day. Depending on the family customs, Christmas gifts are brought by Gwiazdor (Starman Polish Santa), Aniolek (Angel), Dzieciatko (Baby Jesus), Śnieżynka (Snowflake), Dziadek Mróz (Jack Frost), or Santa Claus.

The Most Important Polish Christmas Customs

If you don’t have time for a long read, here are the most important Polish Christmas customs in a nutshell. I am talking more about each of these Polish Xmas traditions later on in this post:

  • Being nice on Christmas Eve (it’s believed that the way you spend this day is the prediction of your upcoming year)
  • Leaving one free place at the table (in case an unexpected wanderer will look for a place to spend Christmas)
  • Placing the hay under the Christmas table(that symbolizes baby Jesus’ cradle and poverty)
  • Waiting for the first star to start a Christmas Eve supper (it symbolizes the Bethlehem star)
  • Hiding a small coin inside the dumpling (it’s believed that the one who will find it will be wealthy)
  • Trying all 12 dishes of Polish Christmas supper (to make sure we won’t run out of food in the upcoming year; each dish symbolizes one month)

  • Trying to talk with animals (it is believed they can speak during this one special night of the year)
  • Sharing oplatek (Polish wafer for Christmas is a must; everyone is sharing it with wishes, hugs, and kisses)

  • Attending Pasterka (the midnight mass)
  • Caroling (singing carols at home; dressing up and visiting the neighbors signing carols)
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Quick Christmas In Poland Facts

How To Say Merry Christmas in Polish?

Merry Christmas in Polish is “Wesołych Świąt“. In case you have trouble with pronunciation, check out my video to hear it being said by me.

What Are The Most Popular Polish Christmas Carols?

  1. Cicha Noc (Polish version of Silent Night)
  2. Bóg Się Rodzi (The God Is Being Born)
  3. Przybieżeli do Betlejem (Shepherds Came Running To Bethlehem)
  4. Lulajże Jezuniu (Hush-a-bye Baby Jesus)
  5. Pójdźmy Wszyscy Do Stajenki (Let Us All Go To The Little Barn)
  6. Gdy Śliczna Panna (When The Pretty Virgin Was Soothing Her Son)

What Are The Most Popular Christmas Wishes In Polish?

Here is an example of Christmas wishes in Polish:

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia!
Życzę Ci wszystkiego co najlepsze, dużo zdrowia, szczęścia i uśmiechu na każdy dzień. Aby nadchodzący rok przyniósł jak najwięcej radości.


Merry Christmas!
I wish you all the best: health, happiness, and a smile for every day of your life. I hope the upcoming year will bring you only bright moments and joy.

Where To Spend Christmas In Poland?

The best place is definitely Zakopane, the winter capital of Poland. You can find lovely mountain cottages in the Tatra Mountains to truly feel the Christmas spirit! Plus, the chances for snow are great.

Christmas Eve

When you spend Christmas in Poland, traditions vary slightly, depending on the family, so Christmas Eve is different for every household. My family believes that the way you spend your Christmas Eve determines your whole year.

So we are trying to be calm, relaxed, not fight with each other and of course… go shopping! If you spend money on Christmas Eve, you’ll do it all year (–> you will be wealthy enough).

In Patryk’s home, Christmas Eve is a normal day until the evening. Christmas starts when it’s dark outside.

Polish Christmas Eve Dinner – Wigilia

The most important thing during the whole day is Wieczerza Wigilijna (Polish Christmas Eve Dinner). It begins when the first star appears in the sky.

It’s Polish Christmas custom to leave one freetable setting for an unexpected guest.

Spending traditional Christmas in Poland means that at the beginning you pray and share oplatek – the Polish Christmas wafer (little flat bread) with every member of the family.

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Usually, there are more than 15 people at Wieczerza Wigilijna (Polish Christmas Dinner) so it takes some time until everybody wishes every single one of family member Merry Christmas. All wishes are personal. It’s the time when we say sorry for our mistakes and say thank you for everything that was good.

The Christmas wafer is something unique to Poland, Lithuania, and Slovakia.

Poles don’t eat meat and aren’t supposed to drink alcohol on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the Polish holiday traditions to fast all day and start eating in the evening.

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Poles usually put some hay under the tablecloth to commemorate the birth of Christ in the stable. When you spend Christmas in Poland traditions are paramount, so it’s important to remember the origins of Christmas and not only think of presents.

Religion plays a huge part in Polish celebrations, as about 80% of Poles are Catholics.

Polish Christmas Eve Dinner Menu

Have you ever tried Polish Christmas food? It’s so delicious. All of the dishes are handmade and completely satisfying.

According to Polish Christmas traditions, you should have 12 dishes during supper. It’s believed that it brings luck for each of the months in the upcoming year.

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You can have it fried, flooded in aspic, or baked. It doesn’t really matter- carp is a traditional Polish Christmas food and you can find it at every home during Polish Christmas Eve dinner.

Why carp no any other fish? The answer is simple- poverty. World War II destroyed Poland completely, including the fishing fleet. Carp was relatively easy to breed, that’s why it became so popular.

When I was a kid, almost everyone was buying a living carp a few days before Christmas and keeping it in a bath. Then on Christmas Eve, the father was killing it with a knife. It’s quite brutal, that’s why nowadays, people usually buy killed carp to make sure he didn’t suffer too much. Plus, they are simply too lazy to do it by themselves.

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Traditional Polish Christmas eve dinner won’t be complete without the country’s most popular food- pierogi!

The famous dumplings come with different fillings, the most common ones for Christmas are:

Żurek Z Grzybami (Polish Christmas Mushroom Soup)
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This soup is a variation of zurek, one of the most popular Polish dishes.

Polish Christmas Mushroom Soup is made of dried mushrooms. It’s sour and creamy- to be completely honest it’s my all-time favorite dish and my mouth is literally watering while writing this.

Depending on the home, zurek z grzybami may be replaced with red borscht. One way or another, it’s always served with uszka (tiny dumplings filled with dried mushrooms).

It’s quite popular to hide 1 grosz (small coin) inside one of the dumplings. The person who will find it will have money throughout the upcoming year.


This super sweet traditional Polish Christmas food is made of wheat, honey, raisins, poppy seeds, and nuts.

They are all mixed together. How does it taste? It’s extremely sweet, so it’s hard to eat more than a few spoons.

Kutia is popular not only in Poland but also in neighboring countries such as Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. That’s why kutia is usually served for Christmas in the eastern part of Poland, especially Bialystok, Lublin, and Rzeszow areas.

Kapusta Z Grochem (Cabbage with Beans)
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Although kapusta z grochem may be eaten throughout the year, it’s the most popular during Christmas in Poland.

The dish can be made of fresh or pickled cabbage (sauerkraut). It tastes amazing and to be honest, it’s different in every home.

One thing that all kapusta z grochem have in common is the strong, sour taste.

Cabbage with beans is usually served with bread smeared with butter.

Pickled Herring
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The second most popular fish that you can try during traditional Polish Christmas dinner.

What’s the difference between the carp and the herring? The first one is usually served warm, whereas the second one is always cold.

Pickled herring may be accompanied by eggs, mayonnaise or sour cream. It’s almost always served with onions.

Salatka Jarzynowa (Boiled Veggies Salad)
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It’s the most popular Slavic salad that is eaten not only for Christmas but all year long.

Salatka Jarzynowa is made of:

  • potatoes
  • pickles
  • peas
  • carrot
  • parsley root
  • celery root
  • eggs

Sometimes you can also find apples, onions, or leek there.

Something With Poppy Seeds
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And finally- poppy seeds dishes. Depending on the region, it may be:

  • kluski z makiem – sweet pasta with poppy seeds and dried fruit and nuts
  • makowiec – traditional Polish poppy seeds cake with raisins

Why something with poppy seeds is one of the must-try Polish Christmas dishes? Because it’s believed that it will provide you the fertility and prosperity for the upcoming year.

Kompot Z Suszu (Dried Fruits Drink)
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Last but not least- kompot z suszu. It’s the only traditional Polish Christmas drink on this list.

Kompot z suszu is super easy to make. You just need to put dried fruits (apples, pears, plums, apricots) in the big pot, add water, and sugar, boil… and that’s it!

The drink is served cold. Depending on your preferences, you can add cinnamon, cloves, and raisins to it for a more spicy taste.

Unwrapping Gifts

After Polish Xmas Eve Dinner, it’s time for unpacking gifts.

When it comes to Christmas traditions Poland is quite similar to other countries, so most people around the world that celebrate Christmas are probably familiar with this tradition.

Going to Pasterka (Midnight Mass)

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Let’s fast forward to the last hour of Poland Christmas Eve. It’s the time when most Poles go to the midnight mass (Pasterka) that lasts about 90 minutes.

After the mass, young people play pranks on their neighbors by taking off gates from their hinges. Being in Poland at Christmas isn’t just serious, it also involves a lot of fun and games!

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, Poles are simply spending their time with families.

They are eating, caroling, watching TV, and enjoying the new gifts on this most wonderful day!

Szczepana – Boxing Day

The same thing goes for Boxing Day, which is the second day of Polish Christmas. Nobody works and everybody spends time with their families.

In the evening, young people usually hang out and party!

In case you don’t love the cold, go here to find out about other holidays in Poland that are celebrated all throughout the year. Whatever the case, Merry Christmas Poland!

Have a question? Join our Poland Travel Support Facebook group, we will be happy to help you!

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Polish Christmas Traditions: How Do We Celebrate Christmas in Poland? (13)

Do you have any questions about the Christmas in Poland? Feel free to ask me or simply comment below!

Polish Christmas Traditions: How Do We Celebrate Christmas in Poland? (2024)


Polish Christmas Traditions: How Do We Celebrate Christmas in Poland? ›

Among the traditional Christmas, dishes are Christmas Eve carp, Jewish-style carp, the herring, pierogi, and poppy seed cake. After dinner, people start gifting the presents and singing carols. Poland really loves its Christmas carols. And there are thousands of them.

What are some facts about Christmas in Poland? ›

Christmas in Poland is called "Boże Narodzenie", which translates to 'God's Birth'. The Day of Saint Nicholas on 6 December is the unofficial beginning of the festive season in Poland. Well-behaved children receive small gifts on the day, whereas naughty children receive a lump of coal or a twig, called "rózga".

What do Polish people drink on Christmas? ›

Grzaniec galicyjski, is the name for the specific type of mulled wine that you will find at Polish Christmas markets. Aside from Christmas markets, you can also find these drinks served in bars, restaurants or homemade in the kitchen.

How many days does Poland celebrate Christmas? ›

3 Days of Christmas!

In Poland, Christmas does not just last for one day, but for three! Christmas celebrations begin on the 24th with Wigilia. The 25th is Christmas Day, known as the First Day of Christmas in Poland, is more relaxed.

What is the most popular Christmas tradition in Poland? ›

Christmas Eve Supper, known as wigilia, is one of the most longstanding and widely cherished of Polish rituals. In the vast majority of homes, both among believers or non-believers, a formal meal is celebrated and served on the table which is covered with a white tablecloth.

What is the Polish Christmas myth? ›

In south-west Poland, the presents are often brought by an actual star. Young ones keenly watch the skies on Christmas Eve, waiting for the appearance of the first star, knowing that this event magically causes their presents to arrive beneath the tree.

What is served at a Polish Christmas dinner? ›

Fish provides the main dish of the Christmas Eve feast across Poland. There are variations of carp fillet, carp in aspic, gefilte fish (Jewish-style carp), sweet with onions, carrots, almonds and raisins. Accompaniments consist of cabbage, cooked red or sauerkraut with apple salad.

What is a typical Polish Christmas dinner? ›

Today's Christmas dinner usually opens with cold plates, including varieties of soused herring, followed by borscht or mushroom soup, and then the hot dishes: often carp, pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms, and croquettes. Dessert usually comes as gingerbread, poppy seed cake, kutya or sour cheesecake.

What is the Polish Christmas dinner called? ›

Wigilia—derived from the Latin term "vigil"—is the traditional Christmas Eve supper in Poland. Also known as the Star Supper, Wigilia is the main focus of Polish Christmas celebrations.

What do you give a Polish family for Christmas? ›

In this article, we'll give you some ideas for typical Polish gifts that you can buy online.
  • Traditional Polish Christmas Gifts – Summary.

What is Poland's signature dish? ›

Pierogi. Pierogi are filled dumplings containing either meat, vegetables, cheese, fruit or chocolate. Pierogi is undoubtedly Poland's most famous and simple comfort food.

What do they call Santa in Poland? ›

Polish: Święty Mikołaj (lit. Saint Nicholas)

How long is Christmas break in Poland? ›

The academic year in Poland is divided into two semesters of 15 weeks each – the winter and the summer semester. The winter semester starts in October and ends in mid-February, with a break of about ten days for the Christmas holidays.

What is the biggest Polish holiday? ›

The end of the annual holiday season in Poland is marked with one of the biggest celebrations of the year – Christmas.

Why do Polish not eat meat on Christmas Eve? ›

The meal is traditionally meat free, this is to remember the animals who took take of the baby Jesus in the manger. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish.

What is a Polish tradition? ›

The drowning of Marzanna

On the first day of spring, Polish celebrate the departure (or demise) of winter by the 'Drowning (and sometimes burning) of Marzanna'. This tradition is rooted in the pre-Christian sacrificial rites of Slavic Pagans.

Why do Polish eat fish on Christmas Eve? ›

The latter method is a tradition surrounding Christmas Eve carp in Slovakia, Poland, and Czechia. A symbol of good luck and classic meat-free meal for Christians, common carp makes a popular holiday dish in Central Europe.

What are some Polish Christmas decorations? ›

Baubles, paper cutouts, chains, pastries small and large, blown eggs are still all made year in year out in many regions of Poland and have some names you may not have heard of! “Right after the first Sunday everyone would sit at the kerosene lamp in the evenings.

What is the Polish host at Christmas? ›

The sharing of the opłatek takes place in the beginning of the Christmas Eve which is known in Poland as “Wigilia”. The concept is relatively simple. Every person around the table has an opłatek which he or she will share with every other person around that same table.

Is there a Santa Claus in Poland? ›

Saint Nicholas continues to bring presents on 6 December, in a tradition that is observed by families and in schools throughout Poland. And across most of the country, Santa is also the most popular purveyor of presents at Christmas too in most parts of the country.

What is a common Polish dinner? ›

A traditional Polish dinner is composed of three courses, beginning with a soup like the popular rosół broth and tomato soup. At restaurants, the soups are followed by an appetizer such as herring (prepared in either cream, oil, or in aspic), or other cured meats and vegetable salads.

Why is there a 12 meals on Christmas? ›

A twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper is traditionally prepared to commemorate Jesus' twelve disciples in Central, Northern and Eastern European cultures, especially those that were formerly part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and neighbouring countries.

What do Polish have for Sunday dinner? ›

The most typical Sunday dinner consists of a pork chop (called schabowy), potatoes and some salad. It is great because making pork chops requires hitting the meat and that allows polish people to take out all the anger they have and as well do some exercise. And after all that it tastes great.

Do Polish people drink on Christmas Eve? ›

As a rule, Poles do not drink alcohol on Christmas Eve. A special compote is made of dried fruits, primarily plums and apricots. This tastes quite unusual and is unpalatable for some; however, it somehow always seems tasty when eaten at Christmas.

Can Polish people eat meat on Christmas Eve? ›

In strict keeping with old Catholic tradition, Poles usually abstain from meat and hard liquor on Christmas Eve. However, wine and fish are acceptable, and the latter is abundantly featured in traditional dishes.

How many dishes are served on a Polish Christmas Eve? ›

Tradition calls for 12 traditional courses to be served during the Polish Christmas Eve. This number is a symbol of wealth, the 12 Apostles and a representation of the 12 months of the year.

What is the Polish Christmas tradition breaking bread? ›

The wife breaks off a piece of the oplatek and eats it. She then reciprocates the good wishes and shares the wafer with her husband. And the ceremonial sharing of wafer and good wishes continues with older relatives, guests and children, starting with the oldest.

What do Polish people like as presents? ›

Polish men are usually very straight forward and like nothing more than a bottle of their favourite vodka like Soplica. Other gifts include Aftershave or clothes. Simple gifts like Chocolate Plums or our zlota wisnia can also be an excellent Polish gift.

What to bring to Polish family? ›

Visits from family and friends may occur unannounced in Poland. People may bring a bottle of wine, flowers (see Gift Giving below) or chocolates as a courtesy gift on arrival. The host will usually open these or place them on a table so that both hosts and guests can enjoy what was brought.

What do Polish people leave out for Santa? ›

Why Do Poles Leave One Chair Empty on Christmas Eve? Polish Christmas traditions are some of the most enchanting composites of Polish culture and heritage. Leaving a chair empty at the Christmas table may be one of the most popular customs, but few people know its interesting history.

What is Poland's breakfast? ›

8:30 – 'Śniadanie' (breakfast)

Poles often start the day with meat or eggs. They commonly have what they call 'a sandwich', meaning a slice of bread topped with cold cuts or kiełbasa, or scrambled eggs. There can also be a side of dairy – either kefir, or quark cheese mixed with radishes.

What is Poland's national drink? ›

Poland: Vodka is regarded a national beverage as some sources consider it to have originated in Poland, dating back to 15th century. Other distinctive alcoholic drinks feature bison grass vodka, krupnik, variety of traditional tinctures (nalewka) like piołunówka, along with traditional Polish meads.

How do people in Poland greet each other on Christmas? ›

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia (which translates to Merry Christmas Holidays) is something you could say as a formal Polish Christmas greeting or something you could write on your Christmas cards to everyone, from your boss to your best buddy.

What do Polish say on Christmas Eve? ›

Wesołych Świąt and other holiday words

“We wish you a Merry Christmas” is “Życzymy Wesołych Świąt.”

What is the day after Christmas called in Poland? ›

Background. Many Christians in Poland and around the world celebrate St Stephen's Day/Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas Day. It is also known as the second day of Christmas.

What does 🎅 mean? ›

The Santa Claus emoji 🎅 portrays the face of Santa Claus, the legendary Christmas figure.

What time is Christmas in Poland? ›

Christmas in Poland involves having a lavish feast on the Christmas Eve, or what is called Wigilia. The traditional Poland Christmas food consists of a full 12 dishes, each signifying an apostle. The dishes are usually meatless, but fish is exempt.

Do people give gifts in Poland? ›

At Christmas, it is common to give small gifts to service workers such as postal workers, refuse collectors, etc. If invited to a Pole's home for dinner, it is polite to bring wine, flowers, pastries or sweets for the hostess.

Is everything closed on Christmas Day in Poland? ›

Christmas Day is an official public holiday in Poland, so schools, banks, government offices and most private businesses are closed. There is a trade prohibition on public holidays in Poland.

How long is a work day in Poland? ›

Standard hours

Working hours are usually from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM or 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, often with up to one hour of an unpaid break for lunch. On average, employees are expected to work 40 hours per week (8 hours a day - 5 days a week).

Is December 6 a holiday in Poland? ›

In Poland (and other countries) Saint Nicholas comes with presents for children on the 6th of December. This holiday is known as Dzien Świętego Mikołaja or Mikołajki (Saint Nicholas' Day). (Mikołaj is the Polish name for Nicholas.)

What are 5 interesting facts about Poland? ›

11 facts about Poland that you won't believe
  • Poland is home to the world's biggest castle. ...
  • Poland has one of the world's oldest salt mines. ...
  • Vodka originated in Poland. ...
  • Europe's heaviest animals live in Poland. ...
  • Poland had the world's first upside down house. ...
  • Poland has one of the most diverse environments in Europe.
Aug 22, 2021

What is White Sunday in Poland? ›

When Is Whit Sunday 2023? 28May2023PolandSun, May 28, 2023 Add to calendar.

Why do Poland celebrate Christmas? ›

Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. It's now often the most important day over Christmas - even though it's not a holiday but Christmas and the 26th December are holidays!

Who celebrates Christmas in Poland? ›

Christmas In Poland: Top 10 Places To Visit Before The 2023 Vacation Ends. Poland is mainly a Catholic nation and so Christmas in Poland is also celebrated on 25th of December, just like in other Western countries. The celebrations are carried out in both a public and family setting.

Is Christmas a national holiday in Poland? ›

Christmas Day is a national holiday in Poland on December 25 to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a festive event and many people have the day off work and school.

What are 3 important things Poland is known for? ›

Food Poland is Famous For
  • Pierogi. Pierogi are one of Poland's most famous and iconic dishes. ...
  • Bigos. ...
  • Kiełbasa. ...
  • Zapiekanka. ...
  • Oscypek cheese. ...
  • Polish Vodka. ...
  • Milk Bars. ...
  • Amber Production and Export.

What is unique about Polish culture? ›

Poles are generally friendly and active people, who like to keep themselves busy with extracurricular activities, trips, and family get-togethers. You're likely to find a close-knit family with grandparents often living in the home.

What do Polish eat at Christmas? ›

Today's Christmas dinner usually opens with cold plates, including varieties of soused herring, followed by borscht or mushroom soup, and then the hot dishes: often carp, pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms, and croquettes. Dessert usually comes as gingerbread, poppy seed cake, kutya or sour cheesecake.

What religion is Poland for Christmas? ›

Like in many Christian nations, Christmas is a religious holiday in Poland. In Polish, Christmas is called Boże Narodzenie, which literally translates to “God's Birth.” Christians wait all month to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, in a period known as Advent.

What do you say to Polish on Christmas Eve? ›

Wesołych Świąt and other holiday words

The complete way to say “Merry Christmas” is “Wesołych Świąt Boże Narodzenie.” Boże Narodzenie literally means “God's birth.” “We wish you a Merry Christmas” is “Życzymy Wesołych Świąt.” “Christmas tree” is “choinki.”

What is the fish for Polish Christmas Eve? ›

There is no exaggeration in stating that carp is a culinary symbol of Polish Christmas Eve. On this day, Poles usually eat the fish fried in batter or breadcrumbs, served cold in a jelly, or simmered with sweet seasonings – the so-called Jewish carp recipe.

What are the two most important holidays in Poland? ›

Poland observes eleven public holidays, enshrined in the country's law as well as the nation's tradition dear - one way or another - to every Pole. And two of them, Easter and Christmas, last two days. However, Polish national holidays aren't equal.


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