Foreigner’s recount of Polish Christmas (repost 2016)

This is a repost from my archives. I had pretty much the same celebration this year. I am sharing this old post for those of you who might be interested in Polish Christmas traditions with slight edits and additional photos from this year.

This was my third consecutive Christmas in Poland with my boyfriend’s family and it’s about time that I wrote about it.

I previously did not have much idea how Christmas was celebrated in this part of the world (or any for that matter). In Nepal,except for the few Christians, Christmas along with many other  Western festivals, are literally other reasons for partying for (mostly) youngsters. The shopping malls in the cities put up Christmas trees and the international TV channels begin airing Christmas movies (HBO every year aired Home Alone if I recall correctly and I loved it as a child) and that’s about it. The government has recently starting giving a one day national holiday to become more inclusive to all communities in Nepal (Christians make up less than 2%). I was always curious what authentic Christmas celebration looked like.

Christmas eve feast

I have never taken part in any other Christmas celebrations besides Polish so I don’t know what the differences are. But in Polish culture, Christmas eve is the most important day. Families gather in the evening and enjoy a great Christmas feast. One of the highlights is that meat is not eaten on this evening and hence many dishes are centered around fish (not considered meat and that’s weird for me as a Nepalese) and vegetables. The ceremony begins by breaking wafers (opłatek) while personally passing cordial holiday greetings to each and every member present in the event.

Wafer breaking ceremony

The last two years I just said wszystkiego najlepszego (Wish you the best of everything) to everyone, as that was the only and the most useful greeting that I had memorized for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. But this year, I added a couple more words due to the improvement in the language (Yay) 😀

After the wafer breaking and some reciting from the Bible about Jesus’s birth (this tradition differs from families), the dinner started. I was told that there are commonly 12 special dishes in Polish Christmas eve celebration. Traditional Polish dinner starts with soup. We started with beetroot soup with traditional Polish dumplings (czerwony barscz z uszkami) and/or mushroom soup with pasta (grzybowa z makaronem).


The other dishes on the plate consisted of herrings (in different styles like with onions and with cream etc), fried carp, Polish dumplings (pierogi), sauerkraut, stuffed egg (faszerowane jajko) and potatoes.


There was also gingerbread (piernik) and some cakes on the table. Everything was scrumptious and full of typical Polish flavors.

Gingerbread cookies
Part of my plate
Stuffed egg with mushrooms

After the dinner, we got presents from Santa (boyfriend’s younger cousin). I got a super light towel which dries fast. It was a handy gift that I am going to use a lot, while traveling, especially. The older members of the family then started singing Christmas songs. The others laughed, talked and mingled. It was a fun-packed evening with close family members sharing the joy together. I really enjoyed being a part of such an intimate ceremony.


Getting presents

Christmas Day, 25th and 26th

On Christmas day, I hung out with boyfriend and his immediate family. We enjoyed homemade turkey and homemade delicious wine. I was asked to marinade part of the turkey Nepali style, which I did, and it turned out good.


We lazed around the whole day and played some games together. Some members of the family attended the church (the night before at vigil and on this day). On the second day of Christmas, I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was such a nice, much-needed 4 days break from work that I wanted to do nothing and relax. There wasn’t picture-perfect snow (or any snow) in this Christmas, but it was indeed a good celebration.

This year (2016) I also went to a Nepali film showing event in Warsaw and had yummy Nepali food in a long time. Christmas was really all about food for me this time.


17 thoughts on “Foreigner’s recount of Polish Christmas (repost 2016)

  1. Thank you for sharing, it was so interesting to read about how Christmas is celebrated in Poland. I had no idea! I can see that you also had herring but the dishes look very different than ours 🙂

  2. Wow the Polish Christmas Eve meal sounds like one heck of a feast but such a great intimate family experience! I’d love to see how Christmas is done in other countries outside the UK where I’ve spent most of my Christmases. Nice that you got a little touch of Nepali flavours into the festivities though ☺

    1. Yes Polish Christmas Eve is such a huge, intimate event! I was really delighted the first time I got to see the celebrations. Indeed, I’m also interested to know how other countries celebrate Christmas, especially since I come from a non-Christian background. I assume the main theme is family and food everywhere, but the little details and traditions interest me! 🙂

  3. I’m originally from Poland and although I spent this year’s Christmas in China, I managed to cook some borsch (barszcz), make a vegetable salad with may (yes, the traditional one) and fry some krokiety filled with cabbage and mushrooms. Yummy! I’m glad you liked Polish Christmas 🙂

  4. Typical Polish Christmas. My family typically only has one soup no mushroom soup or stuffed mushrooms, but for the most part it is similar to how we celebrate Christmas. Glad you enjoy it! Wesolych Swiat! (Donlt have a polish keyboard on the computer so yes that’s mispelt)

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