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Christmas traditions in Warmia and Masuria region

Christmas is an extraordinary time, which has been reflected in the traditions associated with it, passed down from generation to generation for centuries. We spend this period in a unique, unusual scenery. This time is accompanied by characteristic symbols and customs.

In the area of nowadays Warmia and Masuria region they were shaped under the impact of various cultural influences. How did these ancient traditions of the region differ from those cultivated today?

Until World War I, a sheaf of grain has played the role of a Christmas tree. Its presence at home during Christmas was supposed to provide the family with abundant harvest in the upcoming year. Although the wafer is today one of the most important symbols of Christmas for us, it did not appear on the Christmas table of Warmia and Masuria residents even before World War II.

There was also no Christmas Eve supper with twelve dishes, and no fasting was observed. However, just like today, people did not use to work on Christmas. All household duties, such as cleaning, chopping wood and cooking were prepared earlier.

Fot. Main photo www.gck.gizycko.pl  – Paper wicker decorations (workshops).
Fot. www.gck.gizycko.pl  / www.facebook.com/twierdzaboyen.twierdz/ –  Chata Św. Nicholas in the Boyen Fortress in Giżycko (workshops).

In the dialect used in the region, the Christmas Eve was called zilija and Christmas was called  Gody or Godne Święta. In Warmia on the day of zilija carol singers called the servants of szemel used to come to the owners. It was a group of boys dressed in white shirts tied with ropes. They used to wear bearded masks and were holding whips in their hands. The szemel himself was a rider sitting on a stick, on which a horse’s head made of wood was placed.

The rest of the team was also disguised. Among them there were: a musician, a chimney sweep with a ladder, a bear and an old woman (baba) with a basket, who accepted gifts (most frequently food and vodka). They were also accompanied by the figure of death holding a scythe.

Fot. www.muzeumolsztynek.pl Magia Dawnych Świat – Family Christmas meetings at the Open-Air Museum in Olsztynek (workshops).

According to the old beliefs, on the evening of the first day of Christmas, animals spoke with a human voice, magic worked and strange things happened. From that day until the Epiphany, that is, in time of dwanostki, the weather has been closely watched as this period announced what it would be in the upcoming year.

The Midnight Mass – as we know it today – was attended only in towns and bigger villages. In smaller settlements, masses were attended only in the early morning on the first day of Christmas. Then everyone returned home to have Christmas breakfast and the children received gifts.  Gwiazdor was a person who used to bring gifts in Warmia and Masuria region.

Fot. www.muzeumolsztynek.pl Magia Dawnych Świat – Family Christmas meetings at the Open-Air Museum in Olsztynek (workshops).

Zdjęcie przedstawia danie regionalnej kuchni warmińsko-mazurskiej czyli dzyndzałki w rosole posypane przyprawami i przyozdobione pietruszką.

Exceptional dishes that you should try in Warmia and Masuria

"Dzyndzałki z hreczką", "plińce z pomoćką", "szmurkul", and for dessert: "brukowiec mazurski" – where to start discovering the cuisine of Warmia and Masuria? The cuisine of Warmia and Masuria combines flavours of old Polish, German and borderland cuisine. It is delicious, natural and simple, yet full of flavour.

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Fish dishes from Masurian lakes

Fish dishes are an important part of the diet of the inhabitants of the Land of a Thousand Lakes, as well as an attraction for tourists. Thanks to the abundance of lakes, fish have had a great influence on the local cuisine. The culinary tradition of Warmia and Masuria has been shaped by the influences of different cultures for many centuries.

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Danie rybne przygotowane przez restaurację romantyczną w Hotelu Dr. Irena Eris Wzgórza Dylewskie.

Wandering around the land of long forgotten Christmas flavours of Warmia and Masuria

Most of the modern-day Christmas customs of Warmia and Masuria hark back to the mid-twentieth century, when settlers from other regions of the country began to arrive here.

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Wybacz ale w tak niskiej rozdzielczości nie jesteśmy w stanie pokazać piękna Warmi i Mazur