Polish Christmas

My informant is a 20-year-old College Student. She has a predominantly Polish heritage.

I asked my informant if she had any Polish traditions, rituals, or festivals that she could tell me about. She decided to tell me about a Polish tradition that relates to Christmas time. It is normal for people who celebrate Christmas to open their presents Christmas morning, however, in Polish tradition, they skew from this norm and have created their own tradition.

Informant: “Growing up we never opened our Christmas presents on Christmas morning. We opened them Christmas Eve when the first star appeared in the sky because it is Polish tradition. I don’t know if there is any story behind it, I was never told one, but it is something that we do every year. I know that my relatives do the same thing and I have heard of a lot of other Polish people who do the same thing. My grandmother on my mom’s side had to run from Nazis and her whole family had to endure a lot of pain and struggles. I think this part of my family’s heritage is difficult for my mom to talk about. Because of this she does not know a lot of her own heritage but we do this for Christmas as more of an homage to my grandma”

Analysis: This piece is interesting because it gives a new take on a traditional religious custom. Religious customs seem like things that are concrete, but this is not true. There is nowhere in the Bible that states that presents must be opened or that Christmas is a holiday in general where people get presents. If we think of it in this sense, Christmas does allow for a lot of multiplicity and variation depending on where you come from. It is also interesting that although the custom is thought of as Polish, my informant’s family does not do it to celebrate their own Polish ethnicity, more than it is an homage to the a person who was Polish in their family. The tradition celebrates the person more than the ethnicity.