Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Wesolch Swiat"
Location: Central Europe
Tree Type: Traditional

Decorations:

  • Wisiorek (Hanging ornament): (3-sided multi-colored) The design used in making this ornament is commonly found on embroidered female folkware (coats or vests). The beads represent the KORALE (coral beads) that a GORALKA (female highlander) wears with her traditional folk costume. The red ribbon is what she uses to lace up the front of her embroidered vest.
  • Owca (Sheep): The sheep are one of primry sources of income for the gorale. The wool is used in making their folk costumes as well as making yarn for knitting. The leather skin is used in making warm coats (KOZUCH) and other articles of clothing necessary for life in the cold Tatry Mountains.
  • Oset (Thistle): (light green ornament-this description is for you--to help you when you get the pictures) This is a plant which grows in the Tatry Mountains. This design is used in many wood-carvings and Higlander embroidery.
  • Lancuch Szarotkowy (Edelweiss garland): Szarotki are an endangered species of flower/plant life in the Tatry Mountains. The flower itself is unusual because it is of a felt-like consistency. Szarotki are used in many wodd-carvings and pictures of this area.

Traditions: The Christmas season begins with the first Sunday of Advent. The period from St. Catherine's day (Nov. 25) and St. Andrew's Day (Nov. 30) has become a time of festivity for children. Girls engage in games on St. Catherine's Day and the boys play on St. Andrew's day. Advent is the religious preparation of Christmas. The faithful fast from the first Sunday of Advent till Christmas day. St. Nicholas visits the children on December 6th leaving small gifts for the good children.

Another ancient tradition during the Advent period is the display of crèches in the square of Krakow's Walwel cathedral. Artists from all over Poland create crèches (Szotka), These crèches range in size from a few inches to several feet in height. The theme is the nativity set against the backdrop of the cathedral facade. These crèches remain on display until Christmas Eve. The winning entries are placed in the museum.

The family gathers on Christmas Eve for the traditional dinner (Wigilia). On that night, all watch the sky anxiously, hoping to be the first to cry out, "The star!' The moment the star appears, everyone exchanges greetings and good wishes. When the first star appears the meal can begin. On the table is placed fresh straw as a reminder of the stable in Bethlehem. A place is left vacant at the table for the Christ Child or unexpected traveler or guest that might stop by on this night.