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Santa vs. Św Mikołaj

Ever since moving to the UK, my husband and I have always travelled to Poland for Christmas celebrations. This was partially to compensate my Polish family for us living away for the rest of the year, but also in the belief that Polish Christmas is more festive and traditional. So for the past few years, my husband very graciously endured being offered copious helpings of carp in jelly, fried carp, herring, cabbage with peas, endless piles of pierogi and litres of kompot (an aromatic concoction made of dried fruit with miraculous digestive properties).

Our Polish-English Xmas tree

Our Polish-English Xmas tree

This year was my first Christmas spent entirely in England and also the first Christmas with our little son Kasper. After manic preparations in the midst of a flue epidemics and last minute Xmas shopping, we managed to create a nice yuletide atmosphere with a Christmas tree and some Christmas stockings.

In some way, it was nice to cut loose from the strict Polish traditions and do things our own way. We replaced the multi-course Christmas Eve feast with a romantic dinner for two (and a half!), salmon replaced carp, asparagus replaced cabbage, wine replaced kompot. On Christmas Day we hosted my husband’s family and presented them with a roast duck and beef olives – as alternative to a traditional English turkey. Sipping some port and savouring French chocolates for dessert, we finally relaxed after a busy morning and afternoon in the kitchen.

I learnt a few interesting things this Christmas, particularly about the fundamental difference between the gift giving traditions in both countries. The English Santa is a pragmatic – he leaves little bits in the stockings – how else would he manage to deliver presents to all children during one night? Other gifts are given to one another by family members – everybody knows who gifted them what. The English Santa likes whiskey and cigars and to dance with snowmen in the polar circle.

The Polish Święty Mikołaj prefers some anonymity but acts like a millionaire and a superman combined. He brings ALL the gifts on Christmas Eve and leaves them under the Christmas tree. It is a job for a detective to figure out later (often on the basis of the handwriting on the gift tag or the wrapping style) who “helped” Mikołaj deliver the set of Cherub-painted china or the Star Wars figurine…

I also learnt one more thing this Christmas – do not buy a Christmas tree in the dark…

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