In Europe Christmas Markets are serious business. They’re where locals and travelers meet to buy gifts, sample food and get into the Christmas spirit. One of the destinations which embraces Christmas the most heartily is Poland.
Poland straddles an interesting line between Eastern and Western Europe making it a fun, affordable and interesting winter destination.
Polish Christmas Markets
Perhaps the best way to embrace the Christmas spirit while in Poland is a visit to one of the many extraordinary Christmas markets that take place throughout the country. In almost every village, town or city, a Christmas market is held so that residents can buy ornaments, sip on mulled wine and enjoy beautiful decor in a communal setting. Some cities boast truly spectacular Christmas markets, and it would be a mistake to miss a trip to at least one of these amazing spots.
Warsaw Christmas Market
In Warsaw’s Stare Miasto, or Old Town, visitors will find a stunning Christmas market. From the end of November to the middle of January, the Warsaw market boasts with handcrafted wooden decorations, traditional live music, dancing, an illuminated Christmas tree and lots of delicious cuisine. To experience the inviting culture, the amazing seasonal cuisine and the vibrant markets, there is no better time to visit Poland than during the Christmas holidays.
Krakow Christmas Market
Krakow’s annual holiday market takes placed in the Rynek, or Market Square. Expect a blanket of white snow on the ground, giant wooden barrels filled with mulled wine and vendors selling fried oscypek cheese in chunks and on hot sandwiches. It is also a perfect place to shop for souvenirs and Christmas gifts.
Wroclaw Christmas Market
Wroclaw is home to Poland’s largest Christmas market, making it a natural stop for anyone who loves the holiday season. Browse stalls in search of beautiful Polish ornaments to hang on a tree back home, or indulge in the unique chocolate gingerbread that is readily available throughout the market.
Polish Christmas Traditions
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, known as the Advent. The time is meant to be a period of reflection and appreciation, but it is halted for special feast days
like St. Barbara’s Day. An unusual tradition that takes place each year in Poland is a deep clean in the days leading up to Christmas. A kind of equivalent to spring-cleaning in the United States.
Wigilia- Feasting at the First Star
Christmas in Poland officially begins with Wigilia, on December 24 evening. This is the biggest celebration day, and many Polish citizens look forward to Wigilia more than they do Christmas Day! Twelve courses are eaten during the Christmas Eve dinner, but no one has a single bite until the sun has set and the first star is spotted in the night sky.
Santa Claus comes two times in December. The first is at night on December 6th, a day of his patron – Saint Nicolaus and for the second time, during the evening on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Cuisine in Poland
No visit to Poland during the holiday season would be complete without indulging in some of the fantastic cuisine associated with Christmas. It’s hard to stop digging into the incredible food.
Borscht with Dumplings – although borscht is a popular item to find on kitchen tables and restaurant menus in Poland throughout the year, a special Christmas Eve version is a staple of holiday cuisine. Beets are sliced and fermented a few days in advance of Wigilia, and the completed soup is topped with tiny dumplings.
Carp – the main entree for the Christmas feast is carp, which fried and served with a cream-based sauce.
Sweets – in Poland, Christmas brings a number of delicious desserts, some of which include a poppy seed cake called makowiec and a gingerbread called piernik. However, one of the more special desserts closely tied to celebrating the Christmas season in Poland is called kutia. This is a blend of wheat grains, poppy seeds, honey, dried fruits and seeds, and it is eaten with a spoon.
Epiphany in Poland
Wigilia may be the start of the Christmas celebrations in Poland, but the season stretches until at least Epiphany, or January 6. On this day, many Poles bring a box with incense, amber, a piece of gold and chalk to be blessed at their local church. Once back at home, that chalk will be used to write K+M+B+ on the front door. These letters represent the Three Wiseman called Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. When visiting Poland, be sure to walk around town on January 7 to spot all of the decorated doors.