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CHRISTMAS IN POLAND



The Christmas season begins with the first Sunday of Advent. The period from St. Catherine's day (Nov. 25) and St. Andrew's Day (Nov. 30) has become a time of festivity for children. Girls engage in games on St. Catherine's Day and the boys play on St. Andrew's day. Advent is the religious preparation of Christmas. The faithful fast from the first Sunday of Advent till Christmas day. St. Nicholas visits the children on December 6th leaving small gifts for the good children.

Another ancient tradition during the Advent period is the display of crèches in the square of Krakow's Walwel cathedral. Artists from all over Poland create crèches (Szotka), These crèches range in size from a few inches to several feet in height. The theme is the nativity set against the backdrop of the cathedral facade. These crèches remain on display until Christmas Eve. The winning entries are placed in the museum.

The family gathers on Christmas Eve for the traditional dinner (Wigilia). On that night, all watch the sky anxiously, hoping to be the first to cry out, "The star!" The moment the star appears, everyone exchanges greetings and good wishes. When the first star appears the meal can begin. On the table is placed fresh straw as a reminder of the stable in Bethlehem. A place is left vacant at the table for the Christ Child or unexpected traveler or guest that might stop by on this night.




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