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    Anonymous

    Well, I'm starting this thread about Christmas customs, and I'm wondering about yours :) Hope that I'm not doubling a thread.

    I'll tell something about Silesian customs (although customs I mark as neither Silesian nor non-Silesian may be also non-Silesian, so it's possible that's rather a description of Polish customs). I'll post some pics later (I hope to take some photos of the preparations etc, and those haven't begun yet (mostly).

    Preparations began with the Advent time. In Silesia it's common to have an adwentskranc. It's a wreath with four candles, each for one Advent's Sunday. Each Sunday one more candle is lit. The wreath is often placed on the table during Sundays' family dinners. The tradition is German-borrowed, and AFAIK not much known in Poland. During the Advent the Roraty (Rorate Coeli) take place.

    On 6th of December it's the Saint Nicholas' Day. Parents often give gifts to their children on that day. Of course they tell them that the gifts are from St. Nicholas.

    Now about the Christmas' Eve (called Wilijá in Silesian). The day is traditionally a day of fasting (although nowadays the Church allows eating more, but still not meat). That means no more than three meals a day, and no more than one meal for full (that's usually the supper), and of course no meat (fish is allowed). During the day all the preparations take place (sometimes the preparations last for more days).

    The supper (Wieczérza) is the most important event of the day. It begins with reading Gospels about the birth of Jesus. Then the standard Christmas wishing with wafers take place. After that the feast begins. Traditional Silesian soups are moczka (made from gingerbreads) and siemieniotka (made from hemp seeds), but my father doesn't like them, so we are eating Polish barszcz (with dried mushrooms added, that's the best barszcz :) ). Then we eat pierogi with mushroom sauce (I'm longing for all the year to eat these pierogi with this *delicious* mushroom sauce), and a fish. The fish is the carp nowadays, it's bought alive, let to swim for a day or two in the bathtub, and then killed (I'm too soft to do this), its entrails removed (but this I do quite skilfully), and fried on a pan. Important dish is also the sauerkraut cooked with peas (I quite like it, but imagine terrible winds after eating this…). Then there's a dessert time. The main star of the supper are the makówki. That's the most delicious Christmas food besides pierogi for me. It's a traditional Silesian food. It's main ingredient is poppy seed, bread bathed in milk, with some hazelnuts or almonds added.

    Straw is usually placed under the tablecloth during the supper, and different food (fruits, but, surprisingly, ham (but it's not allowed to be eaten, because of the fast)) are placed for securing the abundance of the food in the following year. During the day the Silesian children are told to behave, because as one behaves in the Christmas' Eve, that's how he would behave in the all the following year.

    After the supper we sung many carols, and later the gifts were given. The children are told that the gifts are from Dziécióntko (Little Child, usually equated with child Jesus, but I suppose that there's pagan undertones in it. AFAIK only in Silesia the gifts are given by Dziécióntko). The singing is often required if one wants the Dziécióntko to visit and to give the gifts. Traditional gift (besides (or, what's worse, instead) the one the child wants :P ) consists of nuts (usually hazelnuts).

    After the supper people often go to the Pasterka (midnight mass). The first day of Christmas is usually spent at home with family, the second is usually used for visiting relatives, giving them gifts etc.

    The kolénda (Polish kolęda) is often associated with Christmas. It had developed into three different traditions. First are the carols, called kolęda in Polish, these are sung during the Christmas time (in Polish tradition until 2nd of February (not the day of Epiphany, the 6th of January, the official end of the Christmas time), the day of Matka Boska Gromniczna – Mother of God, Saviour from Thunder, on the day the gromnice – candles that when lit during the storm are said to save the home from lightning (and sometimes lit in other important occasions, most prominently after one's death, placed in his/her hands or beside his/her bed) – are blessed).

    The second is a tradition of kolędowanie (in Polish). People (the kolędnicy) walk from home to home, singing carols and other similar songs. They are often accompanied with a Turoń (a bull/cow/aurochs-like dressed person). The Turoń usually "dies" during the visiting in one's house, then all people try to revive him, and at least he comes back to life. The kolędnicy usually get gifts from the host. They go on tour from the Christmas to the Epiphany.

    In Silesia the custom is a bit different, and it seems it's more connected with St. Nicholas' day than Christmas proper. The houses are visited by people dressed as St. Nicholas with many devils (I think that there're some angels also, but I'm not sure). Of course the main star isn't the saint, the devils are :) They walk from house to house, receiving (or giving, I'm not sure, because I'm basing this on a relation of my grandmother) gifts (for good children, and coal and ôszkrabiny (the thing thrown when one peels the potato) for the bad ones; but again I'm not sure if these are for St. Nicholas' day, or given by the performers. They for sure received some gifts/money from the host). The devils perform many things funny to the children, and they're often punished for them (by the hosts or by the saint).

    The third offspring of the pagan kolęda is the pastoral visit by the priest (colloquially called kolęda). The priest was often accompanied by the church keeper and the organ player (at least in Silesia), but the tradition dies out, he's now accompanied by the ministers. A feast was traditionally made for the occasion (that's also a relic from pagan times), and gifts were given to the priest (nowadays it's money). The visitors usually sing carols when visiting.

    So, my post was a bit chaotic, but please post something about your Christmas traditions. For sure I've omitted something, so I will probably post something more when I recall something.

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