Christmas Eve, or know in Poland as Wigilia, is an important part of the Polish Christmas. In fact, the most important rituals are celebrated on this day. Santa in Poland eats a traditional food found in Poland that is called Oplatek. This is a piece of bread pressed with a holy picture on the surface. It is more symbolic that real food. In some homes, hay is placed under the tablecloth and this connects one with Christ’s manager. People used to carry these oplatek from house to house and wish their neighbors a Merry Christmas. Now, the bread is mostly shared with members of the family and immediate neighbors. As each person shares the bread, they have to do two things: forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year and wish the person all the happiness in the coming year.
There are few countries so rich in National customs as Poland. On Christmas Eve night a feast is held which is not only a sacred family gathering, but has its own religious meaning. The Christmas supper is surrounded in symbolism…the white cloth is laid on top of the hay or straw, the gather takes a plate containing a wafer that has been specially prepared and blessed by the parish and has some sacredsign stamped upon it. He then makes a little speech bidding those present to be at peace with Gd. Then, he breaks the wafer with the mother, and then with everyone present. This proves to all that they are remembered with love. After the wafer is broken, the supper is eaten. As Christmas Eve is a strictly fasting day, there are about eleven courses as this is the first meal in two days. Toward the end of the supper, all the children are led away from t he dining room into another place. Then comes in Starman, who is traditionally accompanied by the Starboys, who carry a lighted star lantern and sing carols. The Starman asks the children questions and if the answer is wrong, they do not receive their reward.
After supper all the family gathers around the fireplace. They sing the Christmas hymns and then boys from the village, carrying a great paper star lantern sing carols. They are given present and the children are sent to bed. The elders spend the evening chatting then drive in sleds to the midnight mass. There are several more little traditions connected with Christmastide, such as the Epiphany, which is the twelfth night of Christmas when people take with them to church small jewelry boxes containing gifts reminiscent of the gifts of the Magi (or the three wisemen). All the different ways that Christmas in celebrated always include one staple…whether it is in the America’s, Europe or Asia…there is always Santa in Poland.