Winter holiday in Poland is an exhilarating experience. First - the weather - crisp and cold, usually snowy, especially in the mountains. Then the Polish hearty food that tastes so good on a cold winter day. And the fairy-tale like panorama of a landscape under a coat of snow.
Christmas break in Poland offers an unforgettable experience. Christmas in Poland still retains the special atmosphere and continuation of Polish Christmas traditions.
The most important day is the Christmas Eve - Wigilia. In the evening (traditionally you wait for the first star to come up in the sky), the traffic stops for a few hours, the streets get empty and families sit down to the main Christmas meal and sharing the 'oplatek' (a wafer with a holy picture on it), exchanging good wishes. At the table there is always an empty place setting left for a stranger (wanderer) who may be in need. Some households also put a basket of hay on the table, taking you back to the country days when animals in the stables would be included in the Christian traditions.
The main Christmas meal is a feast consisting of an odd number of dishes for good luck.
Among the dishes there is herring (raw and with onions, delicious), barszcz (beetroot soup), pierogi (dumplings) with sauerkraut and mushrooms, fried carp steaks, mixed vegetable salad, cabbage with mushrooms, noodles with poppy seeds, poppy seed cake and dry fruit compote.
The Wigilia meal is often meat free but full of fish, and the normal tradition is to fast throughout the day until the meal starts.
Polish mountains , lakes and forests are all great destinations for winter breaks and holidays. And there is lots of invigorating winter activities to choose from.
Winter walking is not only possible but a great fun and a whole different experience to a summer hiking. In the Tatra Mountains, near Zakopane, you can walk along the snowy valleys and stop for a substantial lunch at the mountain refuge at the top of the valley. Children take small sledges for rides along the way. And a well deserved option after a long walk is a ride in a horse-drawn sledge.
Zakopane is known as the winter capital of Poland offering all winter sports facilities and ski jump competitions for spectators.
Winter wildlife tracking - including large mammals - is a great option for winter breaks in the forests.
New Year's Eve party, called Sylwester, has always been very popular in Poland. Around and soon after Christmas you will see it advertised everywhere. This is all about dancing in addition to great food & drink. Many hotels, restaurants, clubs and bars organise New Year's Eve parties but you do have to book in advance as the tickets get snapped up very quickly.
New Year and Christmas would not be complete without an abundance of cakes and treats made out of poppy seeds - poppy seeds mean propsperity in the New Year - so something definitely worth filling up on.
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