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    Our Advent Calendar 2022. Day 13: The Polish Advent Customs

    Did you know that, in Polish tradition, Advent was often also called “Przedgody” or “Czterdziestnica”, as it used to last as long as 40 days? Today we check out Polish Advent customs for you.

    In Podlasie and some villages in the Lublin region, the beginning of Advent was heralded by playing loudly on the ligava (type of aerophone -ed.). This custom was known as trumpeting for Advent or trumpeting, i.e., announcing Advent. The signal of the ligava announced that lavish weddings and parties should be abandoned. The custom of fasting was also widespread at this time, with no meat, no animal fat, no alcohol and, on Wednesdays and Fridays, even no dairy products.

    In the old days, when the maidens were returning from church, they would accost the men they met, swing them around and call out: ‘Roracie, roracie, jakie imię macie?’ The answer would tell them the name of their future spouse. It was also forbidden to do any field work in Advent, so as not to ‘disturb the earth’, as it would not yield crops if moved. Proverbs say: “kto ziemię w adwent pruje, ta mu trzy lata choruje” (whoever ploughs the earth in Advent, it makes him three years ill) and “w adwenta spoczywa ziemia święta” (in Advent the holy earth rests.)

    The long Advent evenings were conducive to neighbourly gatherings, during which some work was done together. Most often it was feather-dressing, spinning, sewing, bean shelling, etc. These chores were accompanied by some kind of storytelling, amazing stories or a simple exchange of news. There was also always a favourite topic of conversation, namely the matchmaking of the young, which is why in eastern Poland Advent was also called “swadziebny” time. It was not uncommon for bachelors to come to the windows of the room where the feather-plucking women and maidens were sitting and chatting, and frighten them by knocking on the window panes, showing their soot-black faces or presenting themselves in some bizarre disguise. It also happened that they would burst into the room with a great shout and play all sorts of tricks, knocking over feather quills, laughing and shouting.

    Slightly different Advent customs could be found in Pomerania and Kashubia, where Christmas carol singing began as early as Advent. Disguised men called “Gwiôzdki” would go around the villages singing carols as a sign that Christmas was coming. The carol singers were led by a “Gwiôzda” dressed in straw, accompanied by a “Gwżidża” who whistled loudly to frighten the children. The carol singers’ equipment included a specially woven whip to scare naughty children, sometimes a drum and a pipe, and a sack of dried fruit and sweets with which exemplary behaviour and good knowledge of the anthem were rewarded.

    Nowadays, these old Advent customs and gatherings are rare and are inevitably a thing of the past. What has not changed, however, are the Advent church rituals. Invariably, Advent is also a time for various household chores and preparations for Christmas.

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