Santa Claus Day

Children all over Poland woke up expecting gifts from Santa today. TODAY!!! On December 6th!!! Why? Well, let me tell you.

Poland celebrates ‘name days’ even more than birthdays. Each day in the Polish calendar has two or three names assigned to it. Most calendars sold here have names written in, just like an American calendar would have a holiday written up. I learned that a general rule of thumb here is that you celebrate birthdays until your 30th, and then not to be reminded of your age you simply switch to celebrating your name day.

To make this story work, I also have to mention that Santa is called St. Nicholas here, or “Święty Mikołaj” in Polish. And on December 6th, you guessed it, Nicholas has his name day. This, boys and girls, is how we get an extra day of presents in the Polish calendar. But that’s not all, because the presents we get on Christmas Day are not from Santa at all…allow me to explain.

To begin with, we open our presents on Christmas Eve, and don’t wake up to presents on Christmas Day. And we don’t call them Santa’s presents either, but loosely translated, we would call them “The First Star” present, Gwiazdka in Polish. Our parents would tell us to look out the window on Christmas Eve and keep an eye out for the first star, and as soon as it appeared, we would run back to the Christmas tree to find it full of presents. It’s not Santa, it’s The First Star.

It all somehow makes sense here. I get confused myself and only while writing this up it came to me that Santa doesn’t stop by twice in Poland, although according to Wikipedia Polish children are some of the most frequent Santa writers in the world. My uncle is dressing up as Santa tonight to carry presents to my smallest cousin Gosia, he always had a costume that would scare the crap out of me and my cousins.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jo says:

    You’re not the only one confused (and I’ve spent first 26 years of my life in Poland :D) I don’t think that anyone knows who exactly is responsible for the presents on Christmas Eve, I remember something being said about Gwiazdor or Dziadek Mroz but the first star, in my house at least, is a sign that it’s time to start the dinner.
    Also another thing… as much as I’m concerned birthdays where always more important than name days, even if you’re over 30 🙂
    We shouldn’t be saying “Co kraj to obyczaj” but “Co dom to obyczaj” 😀

  2. Asia says:

    You’ve explained it perfectly. I’m going to borrow some of your explanation for my American friends 🙂

  3. Jo says:

    Actually Gwiazdka would be correct but I wouldn’t translate it to a FIRST star 🙂
    Jeszcze raz pozdrawiam 😀

    1. polvadis says:

      I did say “loosely translated”, didn’t I? 🙂 But since we’re on the subject, the name Gwiazdka means “little star”. Maybe that’s what I should have called it, little star, but the tradition in general was to look out for the very first star. That’s when you would begin your Christmas Eve supper and eat it in a hurry so you could get to the presents.

  4. Karolina says:

    In Germany, they also get presents from Santa (Nikolaus) on December 6th, and on Christmas Eve they get presents form the Christ child (Christkind). Actually, the “real” tradition is the Polish and German one, because it refers to Saint Nicholas or Nikolaos of Myra, who died exactly on December 6th (in the 5th century). He was the Bishop of Myra (today’s Turkey) and was supposed to rescue the children of Myra by giving all gold and valuable thing from the church to the pirates or sailors who kidnapped the children. That’s why he’s now the patron of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves and children. He also had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for today’s Santa Claus 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s