Christmas Eve in Poland, known as Wigilia, has some really gorgeous customs. Breaking the Opłatek wafer, caroling, opening gifts, the midnight mass, or Pasterka– these are practices beloved by every Pole and person of Polish descent, including myself.
But there exists a stranger side to the method Poles used to commemorate Christmas Eve, filled with secret and superstition.
Most of these beliefs have not been taken seriously for well over 100 years. When I ask Polish individuals today, especially more youthful ones, they have not even heard of them.
However, I believe it’s intriguing to travel back in time and study a few of the odd beliefs our forefathers held. Because of that, I present to you a few of the strangest Polish Christmas Eve superstitious notions.
Wigilia Predicts the Remainder Of The Year
An old Polish belief claims that whatever you do on this day will affect your entire year. If you combat with your liked ones, it’s a sign that the upcoming year will be filled with strife. If you stay fit and healthy on Wigilia, you will remain fit and healthy all year long. Lending out money or objects to others was when prevented for fear that the upcoming year would discover you doing not have food or other needs.
When you consider how risky life remained in old Polish days– extreme winter seasons, the opportunity of crop failures, etc.– you can start to comprehend why such beliefs existed. Any type of reassurance that you would make it in one piece to next Christmas was accepted. Performing correctly on Wigilia provided you a feeling of greater control over life’s unpredictabilities in the coming year.
There ought to be an even variety of people and an odd number of dishes at dinner time.
Having 13 people was the worst situation due to the fact that the number 13 represented Judas, the apostle who betrayed Christ. Odd-numbered households would position an extra plate anyway, simply to keep things even.
Remarkably, an opposing belief held that there must be an odd variety of dishes served. Poles in some way thought that this would produce “space” for things to level in the approaching year, bringing higher food or wealth.
The Spirits are Coming
Here’s where things get questionable from a Roman Catholic point of view. Poles utilized to believe that spirits walk amongst the living on Christmas Eve. The spirits would enter your house in the form of animals, mystical complete strangers or unnoticeable entities.
As an outcome, Poles would take care not to sweep the floor or dust a chair throughout Wigilia for fear of interrupting a spirit while it was chilling in your house.
At dinner time, an extra place would be set at the table for a roaming spirit. Food and drink would be served to this “individual” like anybody else. After supper, the party was over. Everybody in your house would begin banging loudly on pots and pans to go after the spirits out.
The belief in spirits is probably a holdover from pagan days. In the past century, though, it has ended up being more symbolic.
Throughout Poland’s many wars, a minimum of one family member was constantly absent. The additional spot was reserved simply in case that enjoyed one may unbelievely come back. An additional plate likewise represents charity to the less lucky. It’s thought that if a bad person, or somebody who has actually lost their method, knocks on your door asking for food or business, you will currently belong set for him or her.
Towards the end of Wigilia, as midnight approached, things got strange as heck, or two Poles thought. This was the one night throughout the year that animals would talk like humans.
It’s difficult to state why this belief existed, however it’s possible that animals were provided a raised status on this night because of the animals that were present in the stable during Christ’s birth.
When I was little, I had a pet, and at midnight on Christmas Eve I would constantly try to start a conversation with him. Unfortunately, it was always quite one-sided.
Waking the Trees
An old rural Polish custom-made involved “awakening” the trees right before midnight mass. The head of the household would go outdoors and connect the trees around the house with straw or hay. Then, he would knock on the trees 3 times and shake them yelling “Do you not hear? The Child of God is born!”
- Supper could only start as soon as the “First Star” or “Star of Bethlehem” was observed in the sky.
- It was once believed that individuals would die in the same order as they sat down to dinner during Wigilia.
- Leaving the table before everybody finished their meal was considered misfortune.
- Toward midnight, water in the house would rely on wine, almost certainly a recommendation to the biblical Wedding event at Cana.
However wait, there’s more unusual Polish Christmas Eve superstitious notions!
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