Catholic Activity: Christmas in the Polish Home
Various Polish customs associated with Christmas are referred to here, including a few Christmas carols and stories.
After the supper, the family gathers in the living room, exchanges gifts and then sings various Christmas hymns or Kolendy until it is time for Midnight Mass.
At Midnight the traditional Mass, called Pasterka (Shepherd's Mass), is celebrated. Christmas Carols - Kolendy - are sung. Two of the most popular carols are Wzlobie Lezy (Away in a Manger) and Przybiezeli do Betlefem Pasterze (Shepherds Hasten to Bethlehem). The oldest Christmas Carol dates back to 1624. The two mentioned above were written in the 17th century.
One custom that the children eagerly await is the Manger (Yaselka), a presentation of scenes from the life of Christ. Gaily attired minstrels march from house to house singing Christmas Carols and also put on Nativity shows. There are many legends connected with the Christmas holidays. The most popular one is about the cattle speaking the human language on Christmas night; however only one who is without sin can hear and understand them.
No manual labor is performed on Christmas Day. It is a day for prayer and festivity and the gathering of families, relatives, and friends.
Activity Source: Your Home, A Church in Miniature by Compiled by The Family Life Bureau in the early 1950s, The Neumann Press, Long Prairie, Minnesota, 1994