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    Our Advent Calendar 2022. Day 15: Empty place at the Christmas Eve table 

    Although it is one of the most popular traditions associated with Christmas, every year many people wonder why Poles leave an empty place at the Christmas Eve table and for whom an extra place setting is prepared. Check out the history of this custom and listen to beautiful carols on this custom. 

    Christmas Eve is full of superstitions. They usually have their origins in ancient local pagan beliefs. Until recently, it was believed that the souls of the dead appeared at the Christmas Eve supper. It was for such a ‘visitor from the spirit world’ that a place was left vacant at the table. Nowadays, however, people left an empty place at the table for an unexpected visitor. 

    As for the question of who the empty place at the Christmas table is left for, there are several explanations for this custom.

    In the 19th century, it was still believed that during the Christmas Eve supper one could see the person who had died in the current year. It was possible only after going out of the room to the hall and looking through the keyhole. Then, one can see that person sitting together with others. 

    Nowadays, however, is it believed that there may be an unexpected guest or a lost wanderer who may knock on our door. Then, s/he should be welcomed at the Christmas Eve dinner. 

    Beautiful carols

    In Poland, this custom is really popular. In almost every home, one empty place with a full set is left. There is also a carol entitled “Kolęda dla nieobecnych.” 

    The author of “Kolęda dla nieobecnych” is Szymon Mucha, a contemporary poet and songwriter. “Kolęda dla nieobecnych” was written in 1997 and has since appeared on many records. It had its debut in 1997 on Zbigniew Preisner’s album entitled “Moje kolędy na koniec wieku (English: My Carols for the End of the Century). The most well-known version of this song is the one by Zbigniew Preisner and Beata Rybotycka.

    “Kolęda dla nieobecnych” also appeared in an English version (Come to us), on a Cliff Richard album, under the title ‘Cliff at Christmas.’ To date, it is the only Polish carol to have been sung on an album by a foreign performer.

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