Indeed, when Kraków decks its halls for the holidays it seems to rather effortlessly embody all the magic that Hollywood has taught us Christmas is supposed to have. It may be without Bing Crosby, but a ‘white Christmas’ is almost guaranteed in Poland – the freshly fallen snow lending a special atmosphere you may not be used to getting in your home country. It’s not all rum-pa-pum-pum and reindeer games, however. Poland has a full calendar of holiday customs and traditions, many of them Catholic in character, that will surely make your experience here a unique, and even at times completely foreign one. We help you get into the local spirit by detailing them below, so you’ll be well-read and ready when you find yourself smitten in mittens beneath the mistletoe.

In contrast to western coca-cola cultures, Christmas in Poland is not a shameless celebration of consumerism. Here, the holiday season doesn’t kick off with slashed prices and stampedes outside department stores, but rather a sobering 24-day period known locally as ‘Adwent’ - beginning December 1st - during which Poles are expected to spiritually prepare for Christ’s coming by refraining from indulgences like partying, dancing and drinking, are encouraged to help the less fortunate, and, of course, to attend Catholic mass as much as possible. How strictly these church-established guidelines are followed is entirely up to the individual, and having a look around town you’d hardly guess the holidays were a time of self-restraint and supposed prohibition. But it does go to underline the fact that in comparison to the west, Poland really puts the ‘Christ’ in Christmas; here ‘capturing the holiday spirit’ traditionally denotes an embodiment of Christian ideals.

One of the season’s most popular highlights is the annual Christmas fair on the main market square – a tradition started before WWII and rekindled after the fall of communism (when people were allowed to buy and possess things again). Occupying almost half of the enormous Rynek Główny, the fair features stall upon wooden stall selling all kinds of folk art and Christmas ornaments, candies and sweets, knitwear, toys, souvenirs, jewellery, pottery, partridges, pear trees and more. Food vendors also dish up hot food, over which families share picnic tables and keep warm with the hot mulled wine (called ‘grzaniec’) dispensed from enormous barrels nearby. Somewhere close at hand Saint Nick will likely be posing with the little ones as carolling fills the air and random acts of holiday spirit take place on a cultural stage nearby.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Our address

Polish National Tourism Office in USA
5 Marine View Plaza Ste 303b
Hoboken, NJ 07030
Phone: 1-201-420-9910

Polish National Tourism Office in UK
10 Heathfield Terrace
London W4 4JE
Phone: +44 (0) 7747701806
                +44  (0) 2089917076