I was lucky enough to spend the Christmas holidays with my mentor Julita, and her beautiful family. She lives about 2 hours south of Krakow in a village near Nowy Sacz.
Christmas in Poland has been extremely different to Christmas in Australia in many ways. Firstly, the Polish celebrate on Christmas Eve and have a relaxing family day on Christmas Day. In Australia, I would normally be out drinking and catching up with friends on Christmas Eve, I would wake up with a slight hangover Christmas morning and then we would open presents, spend time with family and eat, drink and sleep all day. The next big difference for me was celebrating Christmas in 4 degrees and the ground covered in snow, normally it is 30 degree, the sun is shining and we have a BBQ dinner.
So… We woke up on the 24th and started the Christmas preparations as Christmas would be held in Julita’s house this year. We finished preparing the Borsch (Beetroot Soup) and we spent two hours making the potato and cheese filling and moulding pierogi (Polish dumpling). The aunts, uncles, cousins and Grandpa started to arrive around 5pm, and I was about to experience my first traditional Polish Christmas. Some of the traditions that take place on the 24th include;
- A male visitor must be the first to visit the household that day.
- You should shower/bathe with coins to bring to good fortune for the following year.
- Before dinner everyone shares a piece of wafer with each other, while wishes them all the best for the future.
- The family should be sitting at the table for dinner when the first star appears.
- You should try and eat 12 different dishes.
- After dinner, Santa comes and everyone must sing a Christmas carol before being given their presents.
- Midnight Mass.
On Christmas Day, we didn’t leave the house. All day we ate, drank and relaxed. We watched movies, read and drank hot wine and a lot of homemade red wine. After traveling so much, I have been feeling really exhausted and I’m starting to get sick, it was really great to relax and do nothing. I really needed it.
As this was my first Christmas away from my family, I thought that it might be a little tough being away from my family over these holidays but I haven’t found that I have been homesick at all. I have been made to feel so welcome and I feel like I am a part of the family here. And again, it is so amazing to be in a family environment (2nd time in over 3 months- I really will appreciate it more when I am back home), I don’t want to leave.
Mum and a couple of friends had sent me over some presents to open on Christmas. I was able to share Allen’s lollies and the Mint Slice Biscuits with Julita’s family and they loved them. They have also been asking lots of different questions about Australia and it has been great being able to share information and stories with them. And like everyone else you tell, they can’t believe that we eat Kangaroo in Australia.
It has also been great seeing different parts of Poland, where the tourists normally don’t trek too. I went with Julita and her dad to Krynica, a popular holiday destination for the Poles in winter because of the skiing. We went up to a lookouts (and could only see about 20 meters in front of us due to the fog), we made snow angels, had snow ball fights, drank mineral water that is good for all different health problems (and smelt like rotten eggs) and we went ice skating. It has been great to get out of the crazy Krakow and experience life in a Polish village in the mountains.
The weather has been really strange for this time of the year. It has been extremely warm (up to 8 degrees WOW)…. However, one day it will be foggy, the next sunny and then it will rain. No one can remember it being like this at Christmas time, it is more like spring weather. I am definitely not complaining, enjoying the warm weather while it last and hoping it will continue through January. Although it didn’t actually snow on Christmas day, the ground was still covered in snow and I was lucky to get my White Christmas, the snow is now melting away.
After being so extremely excited about Christmas in Poland, I wasn’t disappointed. Europe do Christmas so much better than Australia… there are Christmas Markets everywhere, crazy decorations and snow!! It was an incredible experience and I’m so very grateful that I got to spend it with such an incredible family.