The unofficial festivities start on the 6th of December, known as the Day of Saint Nicholas. On that day, well-mannered children receive gifts, whilst naughty children receive a “rózga”, which is a twig. Unlike the UK, Christmas Eve is the most significant day in Poland, the night which is called “wigilia” begins when the first star appears corresponding to the Star of Bethlehem.
It is a tradition to leave an empty seat and a set of cutlery for someone that may need food or shelter. The dinner starts with breaking the “opłatek” – the Christmas wafer with others and giving each other wishes. In Poland, the Christmas dinner is meatless due to fasting, whilst fish is not considered meat in this case. There are typically twelve dishes prepared symbolising the Twelve Apostles.
The soup served is usually “Barszcz z uszkami”, which is a red coloured soup served with little tortellini or alternatively mushroom soup is served. Typical dishes include mushroom and cabbage “Pierogi” - dumplings, carp, “Bigos” – braised sauerkraut, “makowiec” – poppyseed cake, just to name a few. After dinner, the gifts are exchanged and then everyone attends mass in churches at midnight.