When Polish Christmas starts and ends?
In Poland there is no Thanksgiving like in the USA. So, there is no any special shopping day starting Christmas season especially since Christmas is preceded by a season of Advent in which any dancing and frolicsome parties is prohibited by a Church. Advent is a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, mourning and reconciliation. However there are few feasts during this season, which is in discord with the solemn atmosphere of Christmas, even Church has to treat it with understanding. These feasts are described in the earlier articles - St. Andrew Day (November 30th), St. Barbara Day (December 4th) and St. Nicolas (Santa Claus) Day (December 6th) , please, click the appropriate title to see the article.
Poles celebrate namedays ("nameday"- the day of the patron of their first name) much more than the birthdays except some round birthdays like the 18, 30 etc . Andrew is one of the most popular names for men so it is also one of the most celebrated namedays. So people sometimes dance and drink to much on Andrew's birthday. Besides, St. Andrew night is a night of magic for young girls. It has a long tradition which is described in the article mentioned before.
The next reason to celebrate is St. Barbara's Day. St. Barbara is a patron of miners and there are many balls and festivities especially in the region with coalmines or coal and geological departments of universities. Barbara is also a very popular name for girls.
Finally, also the St. Nicolas (Santa Claus) day and night which in Poland is celebrated almost 3 weeks before Christmas is a time of temptations. Many parties are organized, mainly for kids but not only.
Because of Advent, Christmas Carols are not sung until Wigilia (Christmas Eve). The Polish Christmas carols name, "koleda" is derived from the Latin word "calendae," meaning first day of the month. Some Polish carols are very old and beautiful and also they are known and sung worldwide, I found them in American songbooks for churches also.
So, Poles as the rule, do not buy and do not decorate Christmas trees until a couple of days before Christmas. But they keep Christmas tree much longer, sometimes even until the February the 2nd when the Christmas season ends in Poland. I will explain it in the further part of the article.
Christmas Eve is considered the most important point of Christmas together with the midnight mass.
Timing also affects the food during the Christmas dinner. Since Christmas Eve dinner take place during the Advent one should not eat meat. Therefore it is fish, usually carp which is a most important part of Christmas dinner. Read more about it in the article entitled Christmas food.
When does Christmas season terminate in Poland?
Not in the same time as in the other dominated by Catholic countries. In majority of Catholic countries the official end of Christmas is on the feast of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day called also a Little Christmas). On the feast of the Epiphany the priest and the organist were visiting the homes, blessing them and writing over the outside part of the door the initials of the three kings (wise men, magicians) with the sign of cross between them K+M+B (Kasper, Melchior and Balthazar). Now usually people do it themselves with the blessed chalk after the Church service in the belief that this would spare their homes from misfortune. Epithany is not a free day in Poland like it is in Catholic Austria for instance.
The Christmas season terminates in on Februry 2, known as Candlemas Day.
It is a day of a feast of the Purification of Our Lady, Matka Boza Gromniczna, in Polish, and people carry big candles, gromnica, to the church and have then blessed for use in their homes during storms, sickness and death. The illuminated candle should be carried home to ensure that the blessing is carried on home also. It is also the day when Christmas carols are sang the last time in the church together with some old and beautiful songs and hymns devoted to St. Mary. Poles love singing carols so much, I guess, one of the reasons why Christmas is longer in Poland is just to let people sing carols in the churches longer!
After the 2nd of February the Christmas is finally over. Usually by this time Christmas trees are already gone but the snow and winter in Poland can still reign almost to the Easter season.