Wesołych Świąt - Merry Christmas

I had always presumed that Christmas traditions across the Christian world are more or less similar. However, after spending Christmas in a Polish family I can tell you it is quite different from in New Zealand!

New Zealand's Christmas seems to start around November when shops begin to advertise their sales. It started much later in Poland. There were Christmas markets for the entire December, but the family didn't start to prepare until two days beforehand. Emsi's mother started cooking in the kitchen the same day we put up the Christmas tree and decorated it. This was heaps of fun with Emsi's little brother Michael. The next day we wrapped the presents and put them under the tree, cleaned the dining room and set the table.

Christmas dinner starts on the 24th in the evening, with a tradition of sharing wishes. Each person has a piece of wafer similar to bread in Catholic churches and must individual wish something to everyone in the room. Obviously the language barrier made it difficult for us, as well as trying to think of original wishes for people you have just met. We internationals wished things like 'good health', 'a happy 2013' and 'that your family is always together'. In return we were told to enjoy our travels, do well in study and be happy in life. It was really touching.

After the wishes we ate. The first drink was a type of juice which smelt so strongly of BBQ smoke I found it hard to drink. After this there was beetroot soup with bigos, pierogi ruski and mushroom ones (baked and fried not boiled), potato based salads, eggs with mayonnaise, and fish. There was a type of juice made from plums. Meat is not meant to be eaten on the 24th. There were also some other unique traditions present while eating; there was some hay under the table cloth to represent jesus's crib, and an extra seat was prepared in case of an unexpected visitor or a homeless person. In New Zealand we sit down together to eat Christmas lunch, but here the mother kept getting up to make more pierogi, and Emsi's brother's baby was distracting everyone, so it was a bit chaotic!
After dinner, presents were opened, very different from the Santa rush on the 25th morning in NZ! We gave Emsi some skincare, her brother Michael some playing cards, and her family chocolates. In return we received sweets, a polish cookbook and 'learn to speak polish kits' each. We weren't expecting anything so it was a nice surprise!

Once presents were opened it was back to the kitchen to start making cakes. I made a Pavlova from New Zealand, Leo made a type of truffle from condensed milk and coconut that is popular in Brazil, and Sara made a type of Colombian fried biscuit. They all went down a treat.

Then the vodka was brought out. Everyone drank a lot, but I'm afraid it was us internationals and Emsi who were last to bed in a sorry state with three finlandia bottles down. The next day was very slow. We were ushered out of bed at midday to set the table for Christmas breakfast. This was typical European one with bread, tomatos, cheese and ham. Then after more cakes we had a quick dinner of turkey before Leo and I had to get our bus to Prague.


After decorating the Christmas tree

International Christmas - boot from Brazil, Tiki from NZ, and truck from Colombia

Wrapping!


Our presents

Mum's still cooking
General chaos over dinner


Some of the family!
But overall Polish Christmas was a really amazing experience and I don't think I will forget it. It really was quite different. I already have a invitation for next year to Piotrkow!

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