Christmas Eve is considered the most special night of the year. In the past, it was even attributed a magical meaning, as evidenced by Christmas Eve traditions that we cultivate to this day.
Christmas in Poland is a holiday that Poles particularly celebrate. Poles attach great importance, especially to the symbolism associated with Christmas Eve.
Traditionally there should be twelve dishes on the Christmas Eve table. Where did this number come from? In the past, the number of dishes eaten on Christmas Eve was odd. Depending on your wallet, there were seven, nine, or eleven of them. Besides, it was believed that such numbers would bring good luck for the whole year. Nowadays we put twelve dishes on our Christmas Eve tables, which symbolize the apostles.
Hay under the Christmas tablecloth
Another Polish tradition on Christmas Eve is putting hay under the tablecloth, which is used to cover the table on Christmas Eve. It symbolizes the stable in Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born.
An extra place on the Christmas table
An extra place at the table is an important Christmas Eve tradition that makes us remember all the lonely people. It also means that we are ready to invite to the table anyone who knocks on our door that evening. An empty place setting also expresses remembrance of loved ones who could not spend Christmas with us or are forever gone.
Sharing the wafer
Among the most important traditions on Christmas Eve is the sharing of the wafer. Despite appearances, it’s not just a nice custom of wishing each other well. The wafer is a symbol of reconciliation and forgiveness, and people who conflict with each other are not allowed to sit at the Christmas Eve table. The seemingly small gesture shows that people have feelings for each other, do not bear grudges, and feel united.
Dressing the Christmas tree
In many homes, the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. Although it is a prevalent custom, it does not belong to Polish Christmas Eve traditions. In Poland, it was not adopted until the end of the nineteenth century, but only in the homes of the bourgeoisie and nobility. In rural homes, grain sheaves or tree branches were placed in the house instead of a Christmas tree.