We are coming back with description of twelve polish Christmassy traditions.
7. Sharing a special wafer when exchanging Christmas greetings
Second the most important thing during Christmas Eve is to share a special wafer when exchanging Christmas greetings. It is a connection with the Last Supper when the Christ set the Sacrament and shared a special wafer with the twelve Apostles. He also called himself a bread of life. The special wafer is a symbol of Christ. What more, sharing a bread, even the last crumb should symbolize reciprocal sacrifice for each other. During sharing a special wafer we should forgive all the hard feelings and wish only honest wishes.
8. Christmas call, caroling and singing carols
Those three contrary to appearances mean three different practices.
Christmas call (in Polish Kolęda – the same word as Carol which is also Kolęda) is a practice to visit homes by priests. It is around the Christmas time and depends on the size of the parish.
Priests bring the Good News, saint and bless the house and its residents. They leave saint pictures with prayers and they are interested in life of their parishioners. Children show their notebooks of the religious education and often boast with their knowledge of prayers or carols. Christmas calling by priests supposed to oust the pagan practice of caroling. Caroling is visiting by masqueraders called carollers other households with wishes of happiness and success in a New Year. That practice in the beginning was connected with not only joining the new year but supposed to bring visited and visitors well-being during coming months. Later it was partially inherited by Christianity and silhouettes of animals that carollers were dressing up for were replaced by the Bible figure.
Last of the three practices, singing carols is the most connected with Christmas Eve. It rely on common familiar carols singing. They say about Christ born and all the circumstances of this occasion. The name come from the latin calendae which means the first day of month. First carols were sang by Romans when they celebrated the New Year. Later on those cantics were inherited by Christians. Secular cantic at the same subject is pastorałka (Carol).
9. Midnight Mass
This is the ending of Christmas Eve supper. That is the mass at the midnight from 24th at 25th December. You supposed to go to the church with whole family. You can admire a stable and listen more about birth of Jesus especially about shepherds coming to crèche who were the first guests of newly born Baby Jesus. That mass since the Vth century has its own ceremony. Its addition are two other masses on 25th December – at dawn and during the day.
10. Number of dishes
Okay but topic title said about 12 dishes. Why actually so many?
The answer is simple – because of number of the Apostles. Wrong is who thinks that it is an old tradition. 12 dishes on the Polish Christmas Eve tables are host newly.
Before it supposed to be an odd number of them, at least five. That was a number of dishes during the peasants supper. The wealthier residence the more dishes – seven were at the affluent host, nine at gentry and only nobility could afford eleven dishes. Since when have we had 12? We don’t know exactly but in the beginning people explained that because of 12 months in a year in which people supposed to be happy. After that it got the Apostles imagery.
11. Dishes composition
You can’t give second best at the Christmas Eve supper. Essentially dishes must be fasting which means meatless. Besides that on the table there has to be at least one mushroom dish (which provides contact with ancestors and well-being), at least one dish with cabbage or bean (which provides strength and health), at least one with nuts (wisdom), at least one with honey (which brings joy, wealth and love), at least one with poppy seeds (also brings wealth) and at least one fish (which means fertility and denotive Messiah). The most popular dishes that meet the conditions are mushroom soup, red borsch, dumplings with cabbage and mushrooms, carp fried or jellied, Christmassy stewed cabbage, poppyseed cake, kutia and pasta with poppy seed. For drinking the most popular is compote from dried fruit.
12. Trying the dishes and its leftovers
Customarily it is believed that you should try each of the dishes that is on the table. Even if you do not like the fried carp you should eat at least a bit. Eating even a bite of each dish supposed to give wealth and peace during the coming new year. Avoiding any of the dishes supposed to cause troubles and lack in household to the next Christmas Eve.
The Old-Polish tradition is to have this supper wealthy and after the supper there were many leftovers. We couldn’t threw it up because was sacred with newly born Saviour. Part of it was gave away to needy and part of it to the stable. Concretely to animals that feed with Christmassy dishes supposed to start talking with human voice to thank for all the blessing.
That are already all of the Christmassy practices. What of them are at your houses? Maybe you have different version of any of those?