This post is by our craft and activities contributor EJ.
We’re participating in the Kid Blogger Network’s, “Christmas Around The World Series”. Have you been following along? If you missed any of the beginning posts in the series, be sure to check out the introductory post and free-eBook at Living Life Intentionally! You’ll find a linky there, too, with all the other posts about Christmas all around the world! I am so excited to share some Polish Christmas traditions with all of you.
Growing up, I was constantly reminded of my Polish heritage – simply because no one could ever pronounce my last name (which only had one vowel, and a combination of z’s, c’s, and y’s that most people wouldn’t even attempt to sound out). Now that I have a much simpler married last name, it’s not something I get to talk about as much, and much less obvious. Which is why I love the holidays, because it’s an opportunity to teach my children, and share with friends, some of the rich traditions that come from my family.
My favorite part of the Christmas holiday is Christmas Eve, or Wigilia (as is called in Poland). Wigilia is a time spent with family, friends, a LOT of good food, well wishing, and an opportunity to reflect on the birth of Jesus.
Today I am excited to share three traditions of Wigilia, in addition to a special treat and a giveaway!
PLACING HAY UNDER TABLECLOTH:
Prior to setting the table, hay (or straw) is placed under the table cloth. The hay symbolizes the manger on which the Baby Jesus was born.
Animals are given a little extra for their dinner on Christmas Eve. Polish legend has it that animals can speak (and be heard by only the pure in heart) on Christmas Eve. My grandmother only recently found out that my father and Aunt snuck out of the house one year to see if they could hear the cow’s speaking (I never found out if they actually did).
SETTING AN EXTRA PLACE AT TABLE:
There is always an extra place set at the table for an unexpected guest or as a reminder for those family members who could not make it or have passed. While we did not necessarily set an extra place, my parents always invited people over who were far away from family or did not have a home to go to on Christmas Eve.
BREAKING OF THE OPLATKI:
Perhaps my favorite tradition. Prior to beginning the meal, we break and share the Oplatki. Oplatki is a thin wafer, embossed with a religious scene (it can usually be found this time of year at your local European/Polish Deli (if you’re fortunate to have one) or can be ordered online).
Everyone takes a turn breaking of a piece of the Oplatki, and hands it to another family member while giving them a wish for the new year.
While my daughter was so excited to give a wish and more so to get one from her brother, she wasn’t too excited about the taste of the Oplatki (it pretty much tastes like paper).
5 MINUTE (POLISH) FLAG COOKIE:
Although I dreamed of making traditional Polish foods with my children (like pierogi or chrusciki) for this post – I knew that their attention spans, and our crammed schedule would not be conducive to anything that took longer than a few minutes – which is what led to the creation of “The 5 Minute Flag Cookie” – no authentic Polish ingredients, baking or cooking methods – but a Polish “look” nonetheless (and easy/yummy way to learn about the flag):
- Graham Crackers (broken in half)
- White & Red Frosting
- Plastic knives for spreading frosting
- Picture of Polish Flag (for reference)
Simply spread equal parts of white and red frosting on half a graham cracker to resemble the Polish Flag. Admire, then devour!
WIGILIA GIVEAWAY (CLOSED)
I’ve looked at several books talking about Polish traditions, but only recently came across Pauline Karwowski’s book Wigilia. It has been perfect for explaining to my children in a simple and beautiful way about these, and several other traditions:
Here’s how you can enter the giveaway:
Mandatory Entry: Share your favorite “Christmas Tradition” in the comment section below along with your email address.
*Extra entries will be given to the first and last individuals who comment.
- This giveaway is open for entry from Thursday, December 13th to Saturday, December 15th at 11:59pm (PST)
- The random entry will be drawn on December 16th and announced on this post. I will notify the winner via email.
- The winner will need to reply to me within 72 hours of this announcement/email. If there is no response, a new winner will be drawn.
- See our Official Giveaway Rules for complete guidelines. US Residents only.
Disclosure: Pauline Karwowski provided us with a free copy of Wigilia to giveaway to a Toddler Approved reader.