Christmas in Poland and Britain – what are the similarities and differences?

Christmas is the most popular family holiday in Poland, Britain and many other countries all over the world. It’s a unique time in the year when almost all members of a family gather together at the table to celebrate a traditional dinner. Everybody tries to be kind, friendly and generous to one another. People forget about their problems, quarrels and simply enjoy being together. Christmas is not only the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ but it’s also the most joyful and happy time of the year.

Both in Britain and Poland people decorate Christmas trees. Spruces or firs are set up in every home and decorated with toys, chains, candles and trinkets. You can find beautifully lit Christmas trees in all public places; streets are lit by coloured lamps and shops are full of people buying Christmas presents.

Nevertheless, Christmas dinner in Britain is completely different from a traditional Polish dinner. At midday, on 25 December the whole British family gathers at the table. Christmas dinner consists traditionally of a roast turkey, goose or chicken with stuffing and roast potatoes. This is followed by mince pies and Christmas pudding, which may contain coins or lucky charms for children. The pudding is usually prepared weeks beforehand and is customarily stirred by each member of the family as a wish is made. Later in the day a Christmas cake may be served – a rich baked fruit cake with marzipan, icing and sugar frosting.

The pulling of Christmas crackers (cardboard tubes containing small presents, riddles or party hats) often accompanies food on Christmas Day. Another traditional feature of Christmas afternoon is the Queen’s Christmas Message to the nation, broadcast on the radio and television.

In Poland the most important rituals are celebrated on Christmas Eve. When the first star appears, people take seats at the table, leaving an empty place for an unexpected guest. Before they start eating, they break and share the holy wafer. The number of courses is strictly established, but is different in different regions of Poland. The most popular dishes are: beetroot soup with dumplings, sour cabbage with mushrooms, pierogi with different kinds of filling, noodles with poppy seed and several kinds of fish e.g. carp. Dessert consists of poppy seed with honey, nuts and raisins, fruit compote and gingerbread cakes.

After the Christmas supper children and everybody else are allowed to open the gifts, which are placed under the Christmas tree. Later, the family gather around Christmas tree and sing the carols.

In Britain people also sing carols and get presents. On Christmas Eve children hang a stocking on the fireplace or at the foot of their bed for Santa Claus to fill. Presents for the family are placed beneath the Christmas tree. All gifts are opened in the morning on Christmas Day.

Both in Poland and Britain people love Christmas and they believe it’s the happiest time of the year. The atmosphere of joy and solemnity is exceptional. The importance of Christmas is emphasized by the fact that during that time all military conflicts are suspended.


Przykładowe pytanie, jakie może zadać egzaminator

What is your share in preparation for Christmas?

I love Christmas and I enjoy the atmosphere of excitement and expectation that precedes Christmas. I decorate the Christmas tree with home made toys, apples, nuts and chains. I go shopping because we always need a lot of products to prepare a traditional supper. Then I help my mum to bake cakes: gingerbread and a poppy seed cake. But the only thing I can do is to mix all ingredients. I’m not a very good cook but I always try to be helpful, I peel beetroots and potatoes, chop the cabbage and help with making pierogi. Finally, I lay the table; I cover it with white tablecloth and spread hay on it.