A traditional Polish Christmas could begin as early as November 12,
St. Martin's Day, with the roasting of a goose for a feast. On the
eve of St. Andrew's Day, November 30, Poles sometimes tell fortunes
by pouring hot wax into a pot of cool water. As the wax cools, shadows
are cast on the wall and they are said to depict what to expect in
the new year. Dreams on that particular night are supposed to tell
of the future.
In Poland, the religious
celebration of Christmas begins with a 24-hour fast that does not
end until the first star is sighted on Christmas Eve, at which time
the family gathers for a Christmas dinner. Places are set at the
table for everyone, even the family members who are unable to attend.
A little bit of straw might be placed under the tablecloth as a
reminder of the manger in Bethlehem. Christmas Eve is considered
a magical time when animals are said to talk in human voices, and
people have the power to predict the future. There is a Polish saying,
"As goes Christmas Eve, goes the year," so everyone tries
to be as polite, generous, and forgiving to one another as possible
so they can expect the same from others in the next 12 months.
The Choinka, or Christmas
tree, is usually topped with a star and features ornaments made
of natural materials depicting rural lifestyles. Red is a favorite
national color so there are red glass ornaments, ribbons and fabrics
adorning the tree. Making ornaments to hang on the tree on Christmas
Eve is a tradition followed by some Polish families, along with
the singing of Christmas songs, and opening of gifts from Santa.
A customary Polish Christmas
could last until January 6, the 12th night, or even until February
2, Candlemas Day.