Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia! That is how we say "Merry Christmas" in Polish.
Christmas in Poland starts with Wigilia which is the very solemn Christmas Eve supper when the whole family gathers to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Wigilia is a family feast which begins after sunset, when the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star.
Earlier on during this day, my sister and I decorate the Christmas tree with glass balls, decorative chains, home-made gingerbread biscuits and old handmade decorations which once belonged to my grandmother.
Before sitting down at the table (where an extra place is set for the unexpected guest), everyone breaks the traditional wafer, a symbolic bread called oplatek, and exchanges good wishes for health, wealth and happiness in the New Year.
This is a deeply moving moment that often evokes tears. Dinner consists of at least 12 meatless dishes (for the 12 Apostles) and afterwards, lots of sweets such as poppy seed rolls or gingerbread.
After supper I play the piano and we sing old traditional Christmas carols together. They are cheerful, tender, and even humorous - typical of the Polish peasant or mountaineer.
At midnight we go to Christmas Eve Mass called the Pasterka, which means the Shepherds Watch, because they were the first to greet the Baby Jesus. It is believed that on this holy night, animals can speak with human voices...