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Krakow's central square before Christmas by the end of the 19th century

Krakow Christmas Traditions

Thanks to its climate, spectacular architecture and rich traditions that enliven the holiday season, Krakow may well aspire to the title of the world capital of white Christmas. And the whole thing lasts longer in the Krakow region than anywhere else – Christmas trees glitter here and carols resound till the end of January.

 

Warming-up  

to Christmastide starts at the outset of December. Seasonal street decorations and window-dressing, omnipresent noel tunes, shopping spree, universal well-wishing, etc. – it may look alike elsewhere but the fairyland scenery of Krakow’s numerous Gothic churches and Baroque palaces is unique. And Santa Claus keeps on visiting every kid in the city early, i.e. on December 6, his name day, to return later on the Christmas Eve. Another highlight comes on the first Thursday of December with the yearly contest of famous Krakow Christmas cribs on the Grand Square.

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Christmas Eve  

celebration begins when the first star appears in the sky, with sharing an ‘oplatek’ wafer with everybody present and wishing him nice things to happen in the next twelve months. Then comes traditional 12-course common dinner of time-honored meatless dishes (fish, and notably carp, being a must), an additional cover always laid for an unexpected guest and a handful of hay put under the tablecloth for good luck. After the meal is time for caroling and unwrapping Christmas gifts. The faithful pack into the beautiful Krakow churches at midnight when the special ‘Pasterka’ mass is said in remembrance of shepherds adoring newly born Christ. And on the Christmas Eve immediately after midnight animals allegedly can speak their minds.

Christmas Day  

and notably the following holiday on December 26th are popular occasions for visiting relatives and friends.

Christmas bauble made in Krakow, Poland

Christmas tree  

is obligatory at home and at work. The more so that everyone expects to find a Christmas gift under it. And Krakow’s hand-painted glass decorations are known worldwide. But watch out for mistletoe hanging – now rarely – from the ceiling: those standing under it cannot refuse a kiss. 

Krakow Christmas Szopka cribs  

are fabulous, colorful and glittering portable theaters for the Nativity traditional puppet plays, and building them remains a fairly popular hobby. At the same time amateur and professional companies of players stage the Nativity live shows in the holiday season. And seeing the Nativity various scenes in numerous Krakow churches also is a popular family activity.

Krakow Christmas crib

Polish carols 

and there are hundreds of them, often centuries-old, apart from sweet lullabies rely largely on traditional dancing tunes, so no wonder they sound pretty lively. 

‘Oplatek’  

wafers are wallet-size, paper-thin and crisp leafs of bread, white or colored, with an impression of the Nativity scene. In Poland before the Christmas Eve dinner those present approach one another with an ‘oplatek’ wafer in hand and offer wishes. When approached everybody listens to wishes, says wishes in return, breaks off a bit from the other guy’s wafer, eats it, and kisses him or her on both cheeks. 

Oplatek’ also means popular December and January social gatherings in Poland where invited guests, even perfect strangers, practice the ritual among themselves in addition to regular cocktail-party socializing. And it is usual to visit friends and family before or over the Christmastide to share the ‘oplatek’ wafer with them and exchange wishes.

‘Kolednicy’ carol singers  

still go from door to door in the holiday season but nowadays schoolchildren (for their efforts they expect small change rather than sweets) replaced expert adult performers of old.

Christmas market in Krakow 

Note: Krakow's Christmas market takes place on the Rynek Glowny central square from the end of November through December 26th or longer. 

Krakow Christmas Cribs

Christmas market in Krakow, Poland

Christmas baubles, adornments in Krakow


Krakow Festivals
Hardly a month passes in Krakow without some time-honored occasion for common festivities or colorful celebration

Easter in Krakow
The paramount Christian feast has a special meaning and a distinct quality in springtime Krakow with its rich Catholic traditions and abundance of beautiful
churches.

Krakow Folk Traditions
Krakow region has always been rich in colorful folk traditions, handed down from generation to generation.


Events in Krakow
Updates on upcoming events.

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