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28 October 2014
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Early presents, very special christmas wafers, a twelve course meal ending with figs and meet Saint Sylvester
Nativity scene
Nativity scene
Catch up on events in the Polish Community in North Worcestershire.
By Councillor Mike Oborski, Consul of the Republic of Poland for the West Midlands.

A Polish Easter
Newsletter 1
Newsletter 2
Newsletter 3
Newsletter 4

Polish consulate in Kidderminster
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Poland claims the original Father Christmas called Sw. Mikolaj

Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia - the great family gathering of the Polish year

Traditionally families enjoy a 12 course meal

An important element of a Polish Christmas are nativity scenes, Szopa, that are preceded by a few days of nativity plays

The singing of Carols – Koledy – starts on Christmas Eve. The oldest known Polish Christmas carol "Come Again Angel King" dates back to 1424

In Poland New Year's Eve is known as Sylwester (St Sylvester's Eve)

“Wesolych Swiat i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku” means Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year in Polish

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Early Presents:

For Polish children presents come early – on December 6th to be exact. Why? Well that is Sw. Mikolaj (St. Nicholas to you) Day and this Saint is of course the original “Father Christmas”.

In Poland he appears with the familiar white beard but his cloak and mitre are usually still recognisably the white and gold of a Bishop rather than the red and white of Santa!

Sw.Mikolaj will also pop into the Polish Club in Kidderminster on Saturday 8th December and will no doubt be prepared to accept a drink at the bar!

After that it all goes very quiet, except for preparations until Christmas Eve.

Wigilia – the Polish Christmas Eve:

The highlight of the Polish Christmas comes on the evening of 24th of December and is known as Wigilia - the great family gathering of the Polish year.

Wigilia being celebrated
Wigilia being celebrated in Siberia
Christmas decorations go up in the home on Christmas Eve and the adults prepare for the evening while the children become increasingly excited by the anticipation.

Traditionally the evening meal starts when the first star becomes visible in the evening sky and ideally consists of twelve meatless dishes.

Tradition dictates three different soups; three fish entrees; accompanied by appetizers, garnishes, and desserts to complete the meal. A full menu might be Christmas Eve Barszcz (beetroot soup), Christmas Almond Soup, Beer Soup with Eggs, Smoked Salmon Omelettes, Poached Pike, Carp with Horseradish Sauce, Baby Carrots Polonaise, Hot Polish Chicory, Mushroom Stuffed Tomatoes, Christmas Eve Bread, and Poppyseed Roll.

Traditionally the meal finishes with a Fruit Compote including a generous dose of figs (which was probably a good idea in the past when our ancestors were not use to such rich living all the year round and the Wigilia Dinner might have been a shock to the system!)

Often an extra place is set at the table for the unexpected visitor or guest.

The Oplatek Wafer:

Of particular significance is the sharing of the "Oplatek" wafer, symbolising reconciliation and forgiveness, before the start of the meal.

Oplatek wafer
Oplatek wafer
The Oplatek, frail, perishable, has for all Poles a mystical meaning which cannot be explained logically.

At Christmas time it is sent to absent members and close friends in strange lands, who in their loneliness, partake of it, as of communion with their loved ones at home.

The Oplatek, of little monetary value, is the treasured link that brings warm memories of Poland to her children settled in different parts of the world.

Losing reality for the moment, they once again dream that they are seated with the family at the Wigilia table, enjoying the blessing, forgiveness, and warmth of those under the parental roof."

Good Catholics will of course be sure to attend Midnight Mass.

Presents are generally exchanged between adults on Christmas Eve.

Among Polish Communities in Britain it has become the tradition to hold a wider "Oplatek" dinner, in addition to the family festivities on December 24th, for the whole community in the weeks following Christmas.

This is usually the emotional high point of the year for the communities concerned.

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