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Christmas tradition still strong in Poland but religious sentiment in decline

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 24.12.2013 14:04
One-in-nine Poles eat a traditional meatless menu in the evening of 24 December, though a growing number say the religious aspect of Christmas has little meaning for them.

photo - PAP/Michał Walczak

According to the CBOS Institute, 98 percent of Poles celebrate Christmas and observe the various Christmas Eve traditions, with the meatless menu in 89 per cent of the households and the singing of carols in 78 per cent of homes.

Sixty six percent declare that they say prayers or read an excerpt from the Bible before starting the main Christmas meal and 70 percent attend Midnight Mass.

Christmas Eve is a very special day for Poles when families unite for the most carefully planned meal of the year, known as Wigilia, the Christmas Eve supper: a meatless meal consisting of herring, carp, beetroot or mushroom soup, noodles with poppy seed and other traditional dishes.

The feast is followed by the exchange of gifts and, in many homes, the singing of carols.

The many traditions associated with Christmas Eve include the breaking of the ‘opłatek’, an unconsecrated bread wafer, and setting an extra place at the table for an unexpected visitor.

The past two decades have seen a significant increase in the number of people for whom Christmas has little or no religious meaning, however.

Rafał Lange from the Department of Sociology at the Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski University in Warsaw says that 20 percent of cent of respondents claim that the religious aspect of Christmas has little significance for them.

In 1991 only ten percent of Poles expressed such a view.

Christmas Eve is not a day free of work in Poland but most of the shops, post offices and institutions work shorter hours.

Eighty six percent of Poles have prepared Christmas presents for loved ones.

A typical Polish household spent 1126 zloty (270 euros) on this year's festivities, five percent more than last year.

According to loan company Kredito24, one in twenty Polish adults went into debt to cover the Christmas costs. (mk/pg)

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