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Wroclaw Cultural Guide: four denominations holidays

A wafer or a prosphoron? Kutia or cheese from the Barycz Valley? Every religion has its own holiday traditions. Following the cultural path set out by the Four Denominations District, we compare and take a closer look at the most interesting customs which can be seen in Wrocław.

Catholic Christmas Eve
During the Christmas Eve, a wafer is obligatory. This is one of the oldest customs, characteristic of Polish Catholics. The way it is made have not changed in centuries – a form is filled with a small amount of flour leaven, then put into a pre-heated oven. After a few minutes, fresh wafers are ready to go to Catholic homes. During Christmas Eve dinner, Polish peasants usually had seven dishes to eat, noblemen usually had as many as nine. The tradition of twelve dishes emerged later, as a reference and homage to the Twelve Disciples or number of months in a year. In Wrocław, it is hard to imagine a Christmas Eve without a carp from Milicz or cheese from the Barycz Valley. Elements of Eastern cuisine are also popular on Lower Silesian tables, including the famous kutia.


Christmas celebrated by Protestants

Protestants celebrate Christmas on the same days as Catholics. What is important for tchem is the period of preparations before Christmas – throughout the four weeks before Christmas, the faithful meet and pray together. On the first Sunday of the Advent, a single candle is lit up on a spruce wreath, that also happens on every subsequent Sunday until Christmas Eve. Protestants do not have a custom of sharing a wafer, but they do pray together. Protestant families do not pay any attention to symbolism of the number or the kinds of dishes eaten during Christmas Eve. It is also not customary to prepare meatless dishes, which is why Protestant tables often feature special meat dishes, such as a roasted goose. The most important element of the dinner is a prayer with the Bible


Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights

Hanukkah commemorates the miracle, which happened at the Holy Temple during the Jewish uprising led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire. This year’s Festival of Lights starts on the 13th of December and will last for eight days. Hanukkah is a happy and joyful time for the Jewish community, which is usually spent on singing, reading the Torah and feasting. During Hanukkah, there is plenty of good food. Among the most popular are dishes fried in olive, as well as ones containing cheese, with the most popular treats being doughnuts with home-made jams, crepes with cheese and potato pancakes. Children can enjoy candy made out of honey and sesame seeds.


Sochelnik – Orthodox Christmas

Orthodox Christians refer to Christmas Eve as “navyecherie” or “sochelnik”, which was derived from the word “sochivo”, a dish similar to Polish kutia. Christmas is celebrated according to the Julian calendar, 13 days after Catholic celebrations – on the 6th of January. Christmas Eve dinner starts with wishes and sharing prosphoron – a small bread with the sign of the cross imprinted in it. The traditional sochelnik table comprises 12 meatless dishes and the participants have to try all of them before the dinner ends. One of the most awaited and loved dishes is kutia. It is said that every single one of its ingredients has a beneficial effect – the poppy improves fertility, while nuts prevent tooth pain. An Orthodox table will usually also feature borscht, dried fruit ompote and some oat kissel.

Collected by Izabela Norek
The article comes from the December-January issue of the Wrocław Cultural Guide. More information about this issue can be found here.


Click to enlarge a photo (Copy) The_National_Library_of_Israel,_Jewish_New_Year_cards_C_HL_12 (Copy) Richard_Ernst_Kepler_-_Im_Lande_des_Christkinds (Copy) The_Christmas_tree_(Boston_Public_Library) (Copy)


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