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Festival of the Star

The Christmas Eve events in Poland are called the "Festival of
the Stars." This Festival begins when the young children see the
first star that evening. The mother has a white table cloth on
the table with small amounts of straw on it to symbolize the
Bethlehem stable in which Jesus was born. After the first star is
seen by the small children, the mother puts out the food. But
before anyone eats the dinner the family says a prayer of
Thanksgiving and the father passes out small wafers with religious
pictures stamped on them. These wafers have been blessed by the
priest. Those present at the dinner wish each other good health
and happiness and share the wafers with each of the others. One
at a time you go up to another member of the family, wish the
other family member good health and happiness and then break off a
small portion of their wafer and eat it. The special dinner
consists of borscht soup (beet soup) or duck soup, fish (it is a
pike fish with saffron and raisins in it), pierogi, sauerkraut,
mushrooms, nuts and kolatchi cookies (these are cookies made of a
sugar dough which is wrapped around a fruit jam in the middle).
One place setting is left vacant for either the Christ child or an
unexpected guest. This is significant of Mary and Joseph's search
for a place to stay when Mary was to give birth to Jesus. Since
there was no place for them to stay, not even in the inn, this
place guarantees a place for them. After supper, the Christmas
tree is lit, and Polish Christmas carols are sung. The star man
comes to the house and asks the children about religion and tests
their catechism knowledge. Three boys dressed as the Three Wise
Men carry a lit star into the room singing Polish Christmas carols
and bring presents to the children. The children do not believe
in Santa Claus; they receive their presents from the Three Wise
Men, only if they answer the religious questions posed by the star
man correctly. Sometimes men would also dress up to be a camel
and accompany the Three Wise Men in their entrance into the home.
At midnight, the families attend the midnight mass which they call
"Pasterka" or in English, "Shepherd's Mass." The church is
decorated with the manger scene throughout the Christmas season.
On January 6, "The Day of the Three Kings," the Christmas season
is over.

Submitter comment: Many of the activities listed in this Polish Christmas were
practiced by both her mother and father when they lived in Poland.
The Polish Christmas dinner, Christmas Carols, and the tree
decorating are still practiced in the family. Also the family
attends the "Shepherd's Mass" each year.

Where learned: POLAND

Keyword(s): Festival of the Star

Subject headings: CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- School

Date learned: 00-00-1950

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