Today is Christmas Eve and we want to share with you the traditions that we have in our families. Some may be obvious to you and others very surprising. Some are related to the country of our origin, but others are family traditions. If you do not know that CRAVEmonkey is created by the following three amazing people: Agata, who comes from Poland, Swietlana, who grew up in Moldova and Tatiana, who came to us from Belarus. We will present here traditions related to our countries as well as our family traditions.

Preparing for you this year’s Christmas recipes we talked a lot about our traditions during Christmas. During these talks, we were so surprised and therefore we decided to write it down and share it with you. Have fun reading!

christmas decorations

Most Poles are Catholic. In the eastern part of Poland, however, a large part of the Orthodox faith community can be found. What is the difference between the Catholic and the Orthodox vigil? We will try to briefly describe the main differences.

  • Date. The Catholic Christmas Eve is celebrated on the night of 24/25 December. The Orthodox vigil is celebrated on the Epiphany Day, from the night of 6 to 7 January. For working people here in Poland, it is not convenient due to the lack of days off during this period.
  • Christmas is one of the 12 great holidays in Orthodoxy, and one of the four of them, which is preceded by fasting. In practice, only very believers keep fasting, because Christmas Eve precedes New Year’s Eve and the New Year’s Eve party.
  • Icon instead of the nativity scene. In contrast to the churches in the churches, there is no manger, but there is a Christmas Icon, before which the faithful pray, bend and kiss her. In the Orthodox faith, the cult of icons is very developed.
  • All night long mass. Mass in the church lasts all night, usually standing. In Poland, we have the so-called shepherdess, or mass celebrated after midnight from 24 to 25 December.
  • Osfora instead of wafer. Instead of using the Orthodox wafer, they use osfora – this is the Eucharistic bread.
  • One gift instead of two. In the countries of the Orthodox religion, especially the countries of the former Soviet Union, children get presents only on New Year’s Eve once (in Poland on St. Nicholas Day and on Christmas Eve). Orthodox Christmas is treated specially as a religious holiday.
  • Grandfather Frost (Father Christmas) instead of Santa Claus. In the Orthodox countries of the former Soviet Union, gifts to the kids are brought by Grandfather Frost with her granddaughter Snow Flake, not Santa Claus. In Poland, however, there are other characters in various regions, eg in Poznań there is Gwiazdor.
  • Koliadki on the first and second days of Christmas. After Christmas Eve, on the second day of Christmas, the carol singers in costumes visit nearby apartments and houses in the area. Often in such a group, there will be kids dressed as a goat or bear. Carol singers sing carols used to be rewarded with food, now rather candy is given to the kids or sometimes money like for Halloween.

Preparations for Christmas:

“Preparations for Christmas start a few days earlier. In our family, we like to have all things arranged and know when and what is prepared. Most of us have been assigned tasks for years, for example, my father is responsible for choosing a tree and planting it (under the watchful eye of my mother, who makes sure that the tree is straight enough).
We write down other tasks that do not have their permanent assignment on a piece of paper and we assign a person and a day to perform this task/dish. I know, it sounds like a corporation, but we noticed that this system works in our family, especially when my dad’s whole family comes to dinner on Christmas Eve and then there can be up to 20 people seated at our table.

We perform all these duties to the accompaniment of American Christmas songs. I must admit that we have been listening to two of the same records for at least 20 years, and despite the fact that they are on for up to five days, we never have enough of them. Do you have it too? “

christmas decorations

“I think I had the biggest mixture with holidays because my family celebrates Catholic holidays and keeps all Polish traditions, but I grew up in Moldova, where Orthodox holidays were officially recognized because the majority of residents are Orthodox and Catholics constitute only 2%.
So, therefore, during my own Christmas, I always had a fuss, because I went to school almost till the end of December. Fortunately, the winter holidays began around December 25-26, so most often on the eve I was still studying, but the first day of holidays was free, although it was probably also that sometimes on December 25th I had to go to school. That’s why my preparations for Christmas have always been at the last minute. Most of my friends were decorating the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve, and I dressed mine on December 24, which is late for Polish holidays, but among my friends, I was almost the first with a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was always in my hands – the family apparently knew who has the greatest artistic talent of all. 😉 “


“I have two nephews who love to help us prepare Christmas. So always my sister drops them off at my parents’ house on December 23 in the evening/afternoon to help us decorate the Christmas tree (since when I remember in our family the Christmas tree was dressed up the day before Christmas Eve) and decorate gingerbread cookies that I bake for the holidays. Fun fact: one time during the holidays it happened that the number of gingerbread cookies exceeded 1000 pieces and on December 27, none of them were left. “


Christmas Eve:

In all of Poland, regardless of the region, practically every house celebrates Christmas Eve. It is a custom that has existed in our Polish tradition for hundreds of years. Christmas Eve in the Polish tradition is an exceptional day, has its own customs, traditions and many rituals intrinsically linked with each other. In the minds of Poles, Christmas has taken root as a special time for the family. We all meet at one table, forgetting everything bad and make wishes for the coming year by breaking the wafer. Christmas Eve is a day in which Polish rites and customs revive. Regardless of the times in which subsequent generations of Poles lived, Christmas Eve and Christmas holidays were always celebrated. Was it in the years of splendour, or during captivity, as well as in the turbulent period of war. Regardless of what fate awaited Poland, Christmas Eve was, is and will be for us Poles a moment of rest and hope for a better future.

“As in the whole of Poland, the Christmas Eve dinner is the main Christmas event. Then we will find at least 12 very festive dishes on the table. These are dishes that we do not eat on other days (after two small exceptions like a vegetable salad or herring in olive oil). Maybe we are eagerly awaiting Christmas dinner because we know that next time we will eat these dishes for a year. It is very possible that this state of affairs is influenced by the fact that my whole family goes to dinner (we eat nothing during the whole day).”


“When I was little, Koliadki was the most-anticipated attraction for the holidays.
Each of the families has their additional traditions for the holidays. In my family, it is baking gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve and decorating them with the whole family on the first day of Christmas and watching Christmas films, while preparing the Christmas table.”

christmas tree

“My grandmother always made food for Christmas. She was preparing a huge Christmas Eve dinner for the whole family. I think I have inherited some similar ideas in cooking because I am clogging all my colleagues from work with my cakes. My grandma spent at least two days preparing dishes for the whole family – often these were dishes not only for Christmas but also for the New Year’s Eve. From such strange things, I remember that in the farthest room in the grandmother’s house, which was not used, dozens of plates of chicken meat in jelly were set before Christmas. They were so delicious and these dozens of plates quickly disappeared as the family and guests appeared. There were plenty of dishes, almost the whole house was full of cakes, dumplings, salads and other delicacies. Everything was done by my grandma. But one task always belonged to my grandfather and it was a kutia! At that time, there was no sale of hulled wheat, so my grandfather prepared it for cooking and he himself made poppy seeds for kutia. He cooked everything (he added raisins and honey). As a side note, this is my favourite Christmas Eve dish from childhood. I always tried to sit as close as possible to the kutia bowl and I could not tear myself away from it. Today I prepare it myself, I buy basted wheat, but I mix the flour myself with a blender, maybe that’s why everyone is so glory to my kutia because it is not made with ready poppy seed.
Regardless of all the confusion, cooking and preparation for the last moment for me, Christmas is always remembered as a special time when the whole family sits behind a large table and this one time every year, regardless of the circumstances, everyone enjoys their company and wish one another for the best by breaking the Christmas wafer!”


And what are your family traditions in your home? Share them with us in a comment section!

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