Category: General Information

Category: General Information

Latest Coronavirus News

Welcome to our Latest Coronavirus News section where we keep you updated on the latest COVID-19 restrictions.

RESTRICTIONS CONCERNING MOVEMENT

1.5 M – MINIMUM DISTANCE BETWEEN PEDESTRIANS

It is mandatory that a distance of least 1.5 meters be maintained between pedestrians.

The following persons are exempt from the restriction:

  • parents with children who require care (younger than 13),
  • persons who live in one household or run a household together,
  • disabled persons, persons incapable of moving on their own, persons with a special educational needs statement and their carers.

COVERING YOUR MOUTH AND NOSE ONLY WITH A MASK IN PUBLIC SPACES

It is mandatory to cover your mouth and nose in such places as:

  • in buses, trams and trains,
  • in shops, malls, banks, markets and post offices
  • in cinemas and theatres,
  • at physician’s offices, in outpatient clinics and hospitals, in massage and tattoo parlours
  • in churches, at schools and universities,
  • In government offices (when going there to take care of certain matters) and other civic centres.

Where is it not mandatory to cover your mouth and nose? In forests, parks, green squares, botanical gardens, historic gardens, family community gardens and on beaches as well as while travelling by private car.

Important!  Exemption from the obligation to cover the mouth and nose is limited only to persons who have a medical certificate or a document confirming:

  • a pervasive developmental disorder,
  • a mental disorder,
  • moderate, severe or profound intellectual disability,
  • difficulties in uncovering the mouth or nose on their own.

Covering the mouth and nose in public spaces is obligatory throughout the entire country.

QUARANTINE

NATIONWIDE RULES:

The restriction applies to persons who:

  • are crossing the border of the Republic of Poland which constitutes the external border of the EU*,
  • are crossing the Polish border from the Schengen zone,
  • had contact with persons infected with the coronavirus, or are living with an infected (isolated) person,
  • have been referred for a COVID-19 test by a primary or night care physician.

* The external border is defined by the provisions of Article 2(2) of Regulation (EU) 2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) (OJ EU L 77 of 23 March 2016, p. 1, as amended).

Rules for passengers arriving to Poland from the Schengen zone

  • Passengers are subject to quarantine unless they present a negative COVID-19 test result. The test will have to be taken no later than 48 hours before crossing the border.
  • Type of test: PCR or antigen test.
  • The measure will cover all modes of transport: public and private transport as well as crossing the border on foot.
  • Passengers who were directed to quarantine in Poland will be able to take a test, a negative result of which will exempt them from quarantine.

Rules for passengers arriving to Poland from outside the Schengen Zone

  • Each passenger is directed to quarantine.
  • Passengers will not be exempt from quarantine on the basis of a test performed in the country from which the person arrives.
  • Passengers who were directed to quarantine may take a test in Poland, a negative result of which will exempt them from quarantine.
  • Type of test: PCR or antigen test.

Important! Persons vaccinated against COVID-19 are exempt from quarantine. This applies to persons who have been issued a certificate of preventive vaccination with a vaccine that has been approved for marketing in the European Union.

Persons travelling from India, the Republic of South Africa and Brazil, cannot be exempted from quarantine on the basis of a test carried out within 48 hours after arriving to Poland. This will only be possible after 7 days. The obligation to undergo quarantine is deemed to have been fulfilled when a negative test result is entered by a medical diagnostic laboratory to the IT system.

What does it involve?

Rules concerning:

  • quarantine (confinement of a healthy individual due to exposure to infection);
  • isolation (confinement of a person with a positive result of the first diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2).

Home isolation lasts for 10 days, provided that the patient does not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.

Should coronavirus symptoms appear during isolation, a primary healthcare physician orders prolongation of the period of isolation, which cannot end earlier than 13 days after the symptoms have appeared.

In case of isolation in hospitals and isolation wards, the end of the period of isolation is decided by the physician responsible for the patient, but cannot come earlier than 13 days after the symptoms have appeared, wherein the last three days must by symptom-free.

Quarantine lasts for 10 days if no symptoms of COVID-19 have occurred. Testing of asymptomatic individuals in quarantine has been abandoned.

During this time:

  • you may not leave your home,
  • you may not walk your dog, go shopping or go visit a physician,
  • if a person in quarantine is in close contact with other persons at home, they must also be quarantined,
  • should you experience symptoms of the disease (feeling unwell, fever, coughing, shortness of breath), you must report this by phone to the sanitary and epidemiological station.

Important! As part of their regular patrols, police officers visit quarantined persons and make sure that they are staying at their place of residence. Regulations provide for a fine of up to PLN 30 thousand for breaking the quarantine. The decision concerning the actual amount of the fine is always made on a case-by-case basis.

Attention! The quarantine is suspended for the duration of the test you have been referred for by a primary or night care physician (the way to the swab collection site and return home). From 28 November quarantine or isolation is suspended, when you need to see a doctor. Under the above circumstances, reporting to a sanitary and epidemiological station is not required.

Valid until 5 June

SOCIAL LIFE

CULTURAL EVENTS – RESTRICTIONS

Museums and art galleries

From 4 May, museums and art galleries will be reopened and allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime, with a limit of 1 person per 15 m2.

Valid until 5 June

Cinemas, theatres, operas, philharmonics

From 15 May, open-air cinemas and theatres will be reopened and allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime at 50% capacity.

From 28 May, cinemas and theatres will be reopened and allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime at 50% capacity.

Valid until 5 June

Cultural centres

From 15 May to 28 May cultural centres and community after-school clubs may carry out their activities outdoors provided that no more than 15 persons take part in such activities, the distance of 1.5 m between the participants is maintained and the participants do not drink or eat.

From 28 May 2021 cultural centres and community after-school clubs may carry out their activities both outdoors and indoors provided that no more than 15 persons take part in such activities, the distance of 1.5 m between the participants is maintained, and the participants comply with the obligation to cover their mouths and noses and with the obligation not to drink or eat.

Valid until 5 June

Libraries

  • collections may be made available to the public, provided that the limit of 1 person per 15 m², excluding librarians, is observed. Information about the limit of persons that may enter the library must be placed at its entrance.

Valid until 5 June

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Public transport vehicles may be boarded by a limited number of persons.

In the entire country, the number of persons who can board a public transport vehicle at the same time may not exceed:

  • 100% of the seating capacity, or
  • 50% of the combined seating and standing capacity, leaving at least 50% of seats in the vehicle unoccupied.

These limits do not apply to vehicles for the transport of disabled passengers.

Valid until 5 June

RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES

From 4 May, the limit of people in places of religious worship will change to a max. of 1 person per 15 m2. We also recommend holding ceremonies in the open air.

Important! In churches and places of worship it is mandatory to cover your mouth and nose. Persons celebrating the event are exempt from this obligation.

Valid until 5 June

GATHERINGS AND MEETINGS

GATHERINGS

Public gatherings may be attended by no more than 25 persons. Participants are obliged to maintain a distance of 1.5 meters from each other. In addition, gatherings may not be organised less than 100 m apart.

MEETINGS

From 8 May, a maximum of 25 people may participate in parties and meetings organised at homes; this limit does not include the person organising the party or the meeting or people who live with this person or who are members of the same household as this person.

From 28 May, a maximum of 50 people may participate in parties or meetings organised outdoors, in restaurants or in designated catering areas.

The limit of persons does not include those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Valid until 5 June

WEDDINGS, COMMUNIONS, FUNERAL RECEPTIONS AND OTHER CELEBRATIONS

From 8 May, it will be possible to organise special events outdoors, with a limit of max. 25 people. Such events will be allowed to take place under a strict sanitary regime, including keeping a safe distance between the tables and abiding by the limit on the number of people per table (applicable regulations are the same as in the case of open-air gastronomy).

From 28 May, it will be possible to organise special events indoors (e.g. in a restaurant), with a limit of max. 50 people. Such events will be allowed to take place under a strict sanitary regime, including keeping a safe distance between the tables and abiding by the limit on the number of people per table (applicable regulations are the same as in the case of open-air gastronomy).

Valid until 5 June

NIGHT CLUBS, DISCOS AND OTHER PLACES FOR DANCING

The activity of such venues is prohibited in the entire country, except for: sports dance clubs.

Valid until 5 June

FAIRS, EXHIBITIONS, CONGRESSES AND CONFERENCES

Fairs, exhibitions, congresses and conferences may be held only online.

Valid until 5 June

EDUCATION

From 17 May, primary schools students of grades 1-3 will continue their stationary learning. Primary and secondary schools students of the remaining grades will switch to blended learning.

Valid until 28 May 2021

From 31 May, all students will return to stationary learning.

Valid until further notice

NURSERIES AND KINDERGARTENS

From 19 April 2021, nurseries and kindergartens in the entire country will be open, providing care for all children.

Valid until further notice

BORDERS AND INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC

BORDERS OF POLAND

Rules for passengers arriving to Poland from the Schengen zone

  • Passengers are subject to quarantine unless they present a negative COVID-19 test result. The test will have to be taken no later than 48 hours before crossing the border.
  • Type of test: PCR or antigen test.
  • The measure will cover all modes of transport: public and private transport as well as crossing the border on foot.
  • Passengers who were directed to quarantine in Poland will be able to take a test, a negative result of which will exempt them from quarantine.

Rules for passengers arriving to Poland from outside the Schengen Zone

  • Each passenger is directed to quarantine.
  • Passengers will not be exempt from quarantine on the basis of a test performed in the country from which the person arrives.
  • Passengers who were directed to quarantine may take a test in Poland, a negative result of which will exempt them from quarantine.
  • Type of test: PCR or antigen test.

Important! Persons vaccinated against COVID-19 are exempt from quarantine. This applies to persons who have been issued a certificate of preventive vaccination with a vaccine that has been approved for marketing in the European Union.

INTERNATIONAL RAILWAY TRAFFIC

International passenger transport by rail that crosses the Polish border is suspended.

Valid until 5 June

ECONOMY

SHOPPING CENTRES AND LARGE-FORMAT STORES

From 4 May, shopping malls, DIY and furniture shops will be reopened. They will be allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime, with a limit of 1 person per 15 m2.

Valid until 5 June

GASTRONOMY

From 15 May, outdoor areas of restaurants will be reopened. They will be allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime, including keeping a safe distance between the tables and abiding by the limit on the number of people per table

From 28 May, restaurants will be reopened. They will be allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime at a max. 50% capacity, including keeping a safe distance between the tables and abiding by the limit on the number of people per table.

Valid until 5 June

School canteens

This ban also applies to running school canteens. Meals may be served only for grades 1-3 of primary school and the teaching staff under a sanitary regime.

Note! Only every second table may be occupied. The distance between the tables must be at least 1.5 m, unless there is a partition of at least 1 m in height between the tables, counting from the table surface.

Hotel restaurants

From 8 May, hotels will be reopened, except for the restaurant and wellness & spa areas.

From 15 May, outdoor areas of restaurants will be reopened. They will be allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime, including keeping a safe distance between the tables and abiding by the limit on the number of people per table

From 28 May, restaurants will be able to resume operations. They will be allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime at max. 50% capacity, including keeping a safe distance between the tables and abiding by the limit on the number of people per table.

Valid until 5 June

HAIR AND BEAUTY SALONS, TATTOO PARLORS

From 1 May, hair and beauty salons across the country will be reopened. They will be allowed to operate under a strict sanitary regime.

Valid until 5 June

HOTELS

From 8 May, hotels will be reopened, except for the restaurant and wellness & spa areas, with a limit of 50% capacity.

Valid until 5 June

SPORT AND LEISURE

GYMS, FITNESS CLUBS AND CENTRES, SWIMMING POOLS AND AQUAPARKS

The following businesses are closed:

  • swimming pools, gyms and fitness clubs (excluding those for patients or members of the Polish national team)
  • saunas, solariums, Turkish baths, weight loss salons, casinos
  • ski slopes;
  • sports facilities (they may only be used for professional sports purposes and without spectators).

From 16 April 2021, children and youth will be allowed to participate in sports competitions held by relevant Polish sports associations.

It will also be permitted to practice sports in outdoor sports facilities, maintaining a limit of 25 participants (both children, youth and adults).

The operation of other sports facilities (sports halls, indoor pitches etc.) is still limited to professional sports only.

All events may be held without audiences. Gyms, fitness clubs, swimming pools, saunas, solariums etc. will remain closed. Exemptions from the rules are established in the regulation.

From 1 May, it will be possible to practice sports in outdoor sports facilities, subject to a limit of up to 50 persons (including children, adolescents and adults).

From 1 May, it will also be possible to practice sports in indoor sports facilities and swimming pools, subject to a limit of max. 50% capacity.

From 15 May, sports events in outdoor facilities will be allowed to take place at max. 25% of audience capacity.

From 28 May, gyms, fitness clubs and tanning salons will be reopened with a limit of 1 person per 15 m2. Swimming pools, water parks and indoor sports facilities will also be reopened with a limit of max. 50% of the capacity of a given facility and subject to the requirement to make available no more than 50% of all seats intended for the audience, every second seat in rows alternately, or the requirement to maintain a distance of 1.5 m between spectators if there are no designated seats.

The limit of persons does not include those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Valid until 5 June

EXEMPTION OF PARTICIPANTS OF INTERNATIONAL SPORTS COMPETITIONS FROM OBLIGATORY QUARANTINE

The exemption of people from outside of the EU from obligatory quarantine concerns:

  • competitors,
  • coaching staff members,
  • doctors, physiotherapists,
  • umpires,
  • accredited journalists.

The exemption applies to persons who are participating in competitions organised by:

  • an international sports federation of an Olympic or Paralympic sport, or another organisation recognised by the International Olympics Committee,
  • an international continental sports organisation belonging to a sports federation,
  • Polish sports association.

Note! Persons crossing the Polish border must present the Border Guard with a letter issued by the organiser of the sports competition. It may also be a document – certified by a Polish sports association competent in a given sport – containing data concerning the fact of organisation of the sports competitions, its date as well as the nature of that person’s participation.

OLYMPIC PREPARATION CENTRES FOR SPORTSPEOPLE

Competitors are allowed to be preparing for the most important international events at COS-OPO (Central Sports Centre – Olympic Preparation Centres). All Olympic Preparation Centres are currently open (Spała, Wałcz, Zakopane, Cetniewo, Szczyrk and Giżycko).

Valid until 5 June

SANATORIUMS, HEALTH RESORTS AND REHABILITATION

As of 11 March 2021, health resorts resume their operations. As of 15 March 2021, the condition to begin inpatient rehabilitation in a rehabilitation centre or a therapeutic-preventive stay will be a negative result of a diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2. The material must be collected no earlier than 4 days before the start of the rehabilitation stay. You will not have to pay for the tests.

Valid until further notice

All Saint’s Day

All Saint’s Day (Wszystkich Swietych in Polish) occurs on 1st  November every year and is a public bank holiday. Originally, this day was only used to celebrate the saints; nowadays it is also a day when Poles remember deceased family and friends and is known colloquially as The Day of the Dead.

On All Saint's Day, the Polish will happily travel hundreds of kilometres across Poland to visit the graves of their relatives, sometimes visiting three or four different cemeteries in different towns. All Saint’s Day is akin to a military exercise for some families involving days of planning and preparation. It can also be quite an expensive day with fuel costs to be considered in addition to the cost of flowers and candles for each grave.

The cemeteries in Poland are usually well maintained and extremely neat and tidy but in November, they are spruced up and decorated with thousands of candles and flowers. They are particularly impressive when it is dark and all of the candles are lit.

The day is taken so seriously that regardless of the weather, you will see people cleaning the graves a few days prior to 1st November. A neglected grave is considered to be shameful and is frowned upon.

All Saint’s Day dates back to the early 4th century and is celebrated around the world by mainly Roman Catholics. The Polish version of the day has a pagan background linked to a time prior to Poland being a Christian country.

Way back in the day, people believed that the souls of forefathers would return to this realm to visit their loved ones by gathering near the windows and doorway; which were left open. They would then enter the house and warm themselves by the home's fireplace and enjoy the commemoration meal prepared for them. Usually, a bench was moved close to the hearth and on the bench, there would be a bowl of water, a towel and a comb so that the souls could wash themselves and comb their hair.

Another tradition was to light bonfires on crossroads to help souls to navigate their way home and to warm them up. This tradition was replaced with the lighting of candles on the graves.

Once the cemetery visits are complete, people will usually get together with their families to have a meal and spend some time together.

The 2nd November is known as All Soul’s Day (Zaduszki or Dzień Zaduszny) when practising Roman Catholics go to mass.

The Drowning Of Marzanna

When it comes to whacky & bizarre traditions, the drowning of Marzanna scores 11/10 and has a distinct Children of the Corn feel about it. The tradition is a surviving pagan ritual in which an effigy of the goddess of winter, plague and death is set alight and then drowned.

Marzanna is sometimes referred to as Winter’s Witch and according to Slavic superstition, she had to be killed to ensure that spring arrived on time and the harvest was plentiful. Of course, being a witch, the killing involved a good old-fashioned witch-burning followed by a drowning.

Historically, the effigy of Marzanna was made out of straw, was wrapped in linen and decorated with beads & ribbons. Then on the afternoon of 21st March, the children of the village would torture her by putting her head in every trough, water barrel and puddle available before handing the idol to the grown-ups to set her on fire and throw her in the river, with much applause and cheering.

In some regions of Poland, the burnt and soaked effigy was then removed from the water and paraded back through the village.

Today, the ritual is alive and well (unlike Marzanna) and children in kindergarten and primary schools all over Poland create a Marzanna doll made out of rags, sticks and straw, take her to the nearest riverbank and burn and drown her usually whilst singing witch burning or spring related songs.

The Marzanna doll can range in size from a small puppet to a life-sized dummy and (we should have mentioned this), the burning and drowning takes place under adult supervision.

The tradition of burning or drowning an effigy of Marzanna to celebrate the end of winter is a folk custom that survives in the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, and Slovakia. The ritual represents the end of the dark days of winter, the victory over death, and the welcoming of the spring rebirth.

In 1420, the Catholic Church attempted to forbid this old pagan custom, however, both the custom and tradition prevailed.

Śmigus Dyngus

Śmigus Dyngus is a celebration held on Easter Monday each year; which traditionally involved men throwing buckets of water over women. The ladies were supposed to wait until the next day to get their revenge by soaking the guys but the reality today is a massive water fight with everyone soaking everyone on the same day.

The day is known affectionately as Wet Monday (lany poniedziałek in Polish) and if you are in Poland on this day, expect to get soaked from head to toe. There are no rules anymore and weapons of choice include water guns, balloons, buckets and anything else that can carry water.

Usually the ladies end up drawing the short stick during this tradition and the prettier they are, the wetter they will be. Very attractive girls can expect to be soaked repeatedly during the day.

In Poland’s rural areas, sneaking into a girl’s home in the morning and throwing a bucket of water over her whilst she is still in bed and then dragging her to a nearby river or pond for a further soaking is not unusual. Sometimes the girl and her bed are thrown in the water together.

There are other rituals associated with Śmigus Dyngus apart from throwing water at each other, including whipping with pussy willow branches, dressing up as bears and other woodland creatures, house-to-house processions and verse declarations.

Traditionally, boys would whip girls with pussy willows on Easter Monday and the girls would reciprocate on the next day. Pussy willow branches were adopted as an alternative to the palm leaves used elsewhere in Easter celebrations, because they were not available in Poland. Prior to the beginning of the whipping, the pussy willow branches were blessed by priests on Palm Sunday.

The origins of Śmigus Dyngus are uncertain but is believed to date back to pagan times and is described in writing as early as the 15th century. The use of water is said to evoke the spring rains needed to ensure a successful harvest later in the year. Girls could save themselves from a soaking by giving boys bribes of painted eggs (pisanki), regarded as magical charms that would bring good harvests, successful relationships and healthy childbirths. Similar traditions can be found all around Central and Eastern Europe.

Easter in Poland

There’s no escaping the connotations that Easter in Poland is all about religion; however this is far from reality, it is also about eating and spending time with your family & friends.

Second only to Christmas, Easter is one of the most beautiful celebrations of the year, it is also a time which marks the end of winter and the promise of sunny weather ahead.

Easter in Poland in linked to the Western Roman Catholic calendar; which dictates that Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring so there is a pagan connection working alongside Christian rites and practices. Families across Poland take part in Easter celebration regardless of their religious beliefs.

Preparation for the Easter holiday begins with Lent, the 40 days that mark the time prior to Resurrection Day, a time when, traditionally, people were not supposed to eat meat or sweets or enjoy alcohol and tobacco and this practice was once deeply rooted within Polish culture. Nowadays, the majority of Poles do not follow the rules of Lent to the letter and prefer instead to use this period of time to perhaps abstain from one thing such as alcohol or chocolate.

In Poland. the week preceding Easter is all about spring cleaning and getting your property spick and span. It also includes an evening mass on Easter Friday called Droga Krzyżowa (Way of the Cross).

The Saturday before Easter Sunday is traditionally used to paint hard-boiled eggs (pisanki) and prepare Easter baskets (Święconka) ready to take to the church to be blessed. Each basket is filled with a variety of foods and usually contain a piece of sausage, bread, salt & pepper, pisanki, fresh cress or oats and a small sugar or plastic lamb. Each basket is also lined with either a white lace or linen napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood.

After being blessed, the Easter basket is taken home and must remain untouched until the next morning, Easter Sunday.

On Easter Sunday, some Poles go to church at 6am for the Resurrection mass; which involves a procession; however the day is primarily focused on family and food. Easter breakfast is a big event in Poland and it includes the contents of the Easter basket in addition to a feast of sausage, ham, roast meats, pâté, eggs, horseradish relish and bread. Its not unusual for the Easter breakfast to take up to 3 hours.

Similar to Christmas with the sharing of opłatek, people at the Easter breakfast will share the contents of the Easter basket. The rules are that the contents must be shared evenly and with everyone.

After the meats comes the cakes with the usual offering being either a sweet yeast cake with a hole in the middle known as a babka or a Mazurek; which is a cake covered in icing topped with almonds, walnuts, dried fruit and roasted seeds. Plus there will always be at least one cheesecake!

The last day of Easter is Easter Monday, known in Poland as Śmigus Dyngus or Wet Monday.

Christmas In Poland

Christmas in Poland is taken very seriously and is mainly focused on family, friends & food. It is very different to Christmas in the UK or USA but has similarities with some other European countries.

Traditionally during Advent, families would bake Christmas gingerbread and use it to make their own decorations. Gingerbread was made into a variety of shapes including hearts, animals and St. Nicholas figures (St. Nick is the Polish version of Santa).

Today, most Poles buy their Christmas decorations in the shops and markets as there is always a fantastic selection on offer. Some families still make their own decorations from gingerbread; however this is more commonplace in the villages of Poland rather than the cities and towns.

You’ll find Christmas trees in most public areas in Poland and also outside churches and within people’s homes. Traditionally Christmas trees in Poland were decorated with shiny apples, walnuts, wrapped chocolate shapes, hand blown glass baubles, and many homemade ornaments and candles with a star as a top piece. You may still find this in some homes; however today most Poles decorate their trees in a similar fashion to trees in the UK or America.

Unlike the UK where Christmas trees are erected in homes in early December and are usually taken down on the 6th January, the poles decorate their trees just before Christmas and may keep them that way until early February.

It is still commonplace for Christmas trees to be real in Poland; however many Poles do opt for replica trees, particularly in apartment blocks – to avoid the inevitable clean-up of pine needles on the stairs and in the elevator.

Gwiazdory

During the run up to Christmas, you may see the “Gwiazdory,” or star carriers wandering through the towns and villages. Depending on location, some of the Gwiazdory will sing carols, recite verses or put on puppet shows & nativity scenes. Today, the Gwiazdory are usually a group of men dressed in Santa costumes.

Oplatek

One tradition unique to Poland is the sharing of the “oplatek”, a thin wafer into which is pressed a holy picture. People once carried these oplatki from house to house wishing their neighbours a Merry Christmas. Nowadays, the bread is mostly shared with members of the family and immediate neighbours.

As each person shares pieces of the wafer with another person, they are supposed to forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year and to wish the other person all the happiness in the coming year.

Christmas Eve in Poland

In Poland, Christmas Eve is the big event, not Christmas Day. Traditionally, everyone would wait until the appearance of the first star in the sky (Gwiazdka) and then a huge feast would begin (Wigilia) followed by an exchange of gifts. Before the sighting of the first star, people would fast. to make the feast more enjoyable. Today, most Poles begin festivities prior to Gwiazdka.

Wigilia (the Christmas supper) is a carefully planned meal packed pull of traditions. Bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger and an even number of people must be seated around the table or tradition states, someone may die in the coming year

In some places an empty place setting is symbolically left at the table for the Baby Jesus or for a wanderer who may be in need, or if a deceased relative should come and would like to share in the meal.

The meal begins with the breaking of the oplatek. Everyone at the table breaks off a piece and eats it as a symbol of their unity with Christ. They then share a piece with each family member giving good wishes for the following year. There should be twelve dishes, as a symbol of the Twelve Apostles, or an odd number of dishes for good luck (usually five, seven, or nine). Poppy seed cake, beet soup, prune dumplings, carp, herring and noodles with poppy seed are universal Polish Christmas foods. There is no meat in the Christmas Eve feast.

Christmas Day is a day spent visiting friends.

Flavours of Polish Christmas

If you’re in Warsaw over the Christmas period, and you’d like to know more about Polish cuisine at this time of year, then why not try out the Flavours of Polish Christmas experience.

Christmas is by far the most important celebration in Poland. Almost all of the dishes that are served on that day are cooked only once a year!

During this 4 course dinner you will taste the most popular Christmas food and learn how to make the famous Polish dumplings. Try marinated herrings, taste beetroot soup with mushroom stuffed dumplings, MAKE pierogi with sauerkraut and last but not least, indulge yourself in the festive poppy seed dessert! Please, come HUNGRY!

In addition to the meal, you will get to know the famous Polish Christmas traditions, such as breaking wafers or setting an extra plate on the table – Book tickets.

Fat Thursday

Who ate all the doughnuts?

Of all the traditions in Poland, Fat Thursday is one of the most popular, one of the oldest (16th century) and definitely the tastiest. Fat Thursday (Tłusty czwartek in Polish) happens every year in February and on the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent. It basically involves eating as many doughnuts as possible; which apparently brings you good luck.

Each year, 100 million doughnuts are consumed in Poland on Tłusty czwartek, that equates to two and a half for each person.

The type of doughnuts eaten are known as pączki; which are deep-fried, usually filled with jam or marmalade, sugar glazed and topped with candied orange peel. As an alternative to pączki (or more likely as an addition to), Poles also like to eat faworki. These are thin doughnut ribbons; which are fried until they are crispy and topped with powdered sugar and are also known as “angel wings.”

The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Christian fasting practices during the season of Lent.

You can buy pączki and faworki from most bakeries any day of the year; however it is only on Fat Thursday when you will see queues a few hundred metres long outside of the best bakeries with Poles making sure that they get their hands on the best doughnuts. The two most famous bakeries in Poland are Zagoździński in Warsaw or Michałek in Kraków.

Over the years, the recipe for doughnuts has evolved considerably. Today, they are light and fluffy, back in the 16th century they resembled rocks and it is said that if thrown at you, they could cause damage.

The tradition of Tłusty czwartek is so strong; there are even proverbs written about them such as ‘those who don’t eat a stack of pączki on Fat Thursday will have an empty barn and their field destroyed by mice.’

Pączki are different to doughnuts that you will find in other countries, the traditional recipe includes lard, eggs, yeast, wheat flour and loads of sugar. They are fried in lard or deep oil for a very short while and they taste at their best when they are still warm. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally rectified spirit) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough.

Today, Polish chefs cater for everyone and it is possible to find vegan and gluten-free versions of doughnuts and even the traditional filling is often replaced with alternatives such as vanilla custard or chocolate.

The equivalent of Fat Thursday is also celebrated in other countries such as Germany, Italy & Spain. It is similar to the British tradition of Shrove Tuesday, where many Brits eat pancakes on the final Tuesday before lent.