Wigilia comes from the Latin word vigilare, "to watch", and literally means 'eve'. The feasting traditionally begins once the first star has been sighted (usually by children) in the heavens at dusk (around 5 p.m.). Therefore Christmas is also sometimes called "Gwiazdka" (the little star, referring to the Star of Bethlehem).
Traditions and Customs
Children usually decorate the Christmas tree on this day (if it has not been set up before). A bundle of hay is placed under the tablecloth or in each of the four corners of the room to symbolize the fact that Jesus was born in a manger.
As a game, children would remove pieces of straw from under the table. Green would mean a year of wealth or possibly a marriage, while a black piece of hay would mean bad luck much like the "piece of coal" represents in modern Christmas lore. The drawing of hay was only for fun and was rarely paid attention to. Various other divinations are semi-seriously practiced such as hiding a nut (or another small food piece) in a cake and dividing it among family members. Whoever finds the nut inside his portion is guaranteed to have a successful year.
Another tradition is leaving one extra empty plate for a stranger. This is to celebrate the tradition of hospitality in Poland. The extra seat was left open just in case a traveler, family members, or friends appeared at the door, so there would be a place for them to sit. It also represents a place for family members who have died, or in some traditions symbolizes hospitality for the baby Jesus.
Family members begin the celebration with a prayer and breaking of the Christmas wafer (opłatek - symbolising the bread eaten daily — our day-to-day common life) and wishing each other good fortune in the upcoming new year. Readings from the Bible concerning the nativity of Jesus are practiced in more religious households. In the countryside, it is customary to feed livestock (though not dogs, cats, and other pets) with the wafer. As the animals of the household are to be treated as people that day and traditionally believed to speak with a human voice.
The Evening Supper
After sharing the wafer the supper begins. The number of dishes is traditionally established to be either twelve (in Kraków region) or an odd number (in Silesia). The number twelve is symbolic of the number of months in the coming year as well as to celebrate the twelve disciples of Jesus.
Wigilia is observed as a carp filet, carp in aspic, żurek,siemieniotka (in Silesia), kutia,makowki, pierogi, barszcz, uszka or a soup of cabbage and yellow peas, kluski, fried fish fillets, herring in oil, mushroom or fish soup, and different salads., and as such Poles abstain from eating meat on this day. Traditional dishes include breaded
It is still believed that whatever happens on the Wigilia day has an impact on the following year. So, if a quarrel should arise, it foretells a quarrelsome and troublesome year. If, in the morning the first visiting person is a man, it means good luck, if a woman, one might expect misfortune. Everyone, however, is glad when a mailman comes by, for it means money and success in the future.
Wesołych Świąt życzy Polski Związek Alpinizmu
Niech magiczna moc Wigilijnego wieczoru przyniesie Ci spokój i radość.
Niech każda chwila Świąt Bożego Narodzenia żyje własnym pięknem, A Nowy Rok obdaruje Ciebie pomyślnością i szczęściem.
Najpiękniejszych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia, i niech spełniają się wszystkie Twe marzenia. Tobie i Twoim bliskim z serca ślę.
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May the spirit of the season... bring you joy and love to cherish always! Merry Christmas !