Christmas in Poland
Christmas definitely is one of the biggest holidays in Poland, I witnessed it first-hand. I celebrated Christmas Eve in the home of Ania, the director of my coordinating organization, Akwedukt. She had her whole family, maybe around 20 people. The mood was exceptionally festive,traditions were followed 100 % with meatless dishes, fish, prayer and reading from the Gospel before dinner, toast from the senior in the family, exchange of good wishes and opłatek which is ritual bread in the form of thin white loaf.
There were many different dishes and a lot of food. There was no empty space on the table, and that was only half of the food. Later the children sang Christmas songs, and Swięty Mikołaj came, this is how polish people call Santa Claus. There were presents for everyone, even me. I received a book about Apollo 11 in polish, chocolate and special beer. Of course I had to sing a song like everyone else. I chose the song with which begins every episode of “Four Tank-Men and a Dog”. This is an old polish TV series, telling the story of the crew of a T-34 tank and their dog – Sharik. This TV series was also very popular in Bulgaria in the past.
Everyone was in good mood, talking lively, I also got involved, sometimes in English, sometimes with a mix of bad Polish, English and audio – visual gestures with hands, body, all kinds of sounds and constantly nodding. On the next day, the 25th of December, I was invited to lunch, all the relatives again were there, we had a good time, but honestly, I was a little bored in the end.
On the 26th I was visiting Eva’s family. She is the director of my hosting organization, Eco Initiative. The atmosphere was more intimate, less formal, it was very pleasant. Of course, there were different dishes, all home made from seasonal produce. Their home is located in a small village nearby, in the forest itself. They have a yard and care for different animals – a special breed of Polish horses, sheep, goats, hens, bees and others.
According to an old legend, domestic animals acquire the ability to talk in a human voice with their owners, who have to share with them the ritual bread opłatek for health and prosperity. Of course, we followed this tradition.
Most volunteers chose to spend Christmas and New Year holidays abroad – Germany, France, Italy, but I am happy and grateful to have stayed in Poland and shared the Christmas spirit and traditions with hospitable Polish families.
Vasil Elhovski will take part in a long-term EVS project in Kwidzyn, Poland, as a volunteer with receiving organization Stowarzyszenie Eko-Inicjatywa, coordinating organization Stowarzyszenie Akwedukt, and sending organization YDCMA. In the period 01.09.2018 to 31.08.2019, the volunteer will take part in activities connected with ecology, active citizenship, non-formal education intercultural and personal skills and contribution to society.