Culture

Discover our unique and rich culture.

Due to a long and rich history, Poland has a unique and diverse culture.

You can encounter relics of the past almost everywhere you go and Polish people are very attached to the past. At the same time, the country strides to catch up with other Western cultures, which also has an impact on the way Poles see certain things. So let’s jump right to it!

Religion plays a crucial role both in Polish society, and culture. Most people are catholic and, therefore, traditions and holidays associated with it are taken very seriously. It’s common for most businesses to be closed on religious holidays, which were made national holidays long ago.

Poland has experienced a lot of political and geographical changes through the years. In spite of that, old Polish traditions and customs have been maintained.

Holidays and traditions you should know:

01.

Traditions

02.

Holidays

03.

People in Poland

04.

Polish food

01.

Traditions

12 dishes on Christmas Eve (Wigilia)

One of the most important celebrations of the year is held on 24th of December. Wigilia involves 12 dishes being served and shared by the family members and closest friends.

Each dish has to be unique and cannot be repeated or contain meat. Some of them are cooked only on this day, for example dried fruit compote or kutia. This celebration represents honours awaiting the arrival of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

The Drowning of Marzanna

A symbolic folk custom. Marzanna is the Polish incarnation of the old Slavic goddess of winter, plague and death. The best way to protect from her, encourage the timely arrival of Spring and ensure a good harvest is to take part in an old-fashioned witch-burning followed by drowning in the river. In Poland it’s a chance to symbolically “kill” or bury winter and welcome in spring.

Andrzejki

St. Andrew’s Day is celebrated in some countries around the world, but in Poland this day has a slightly different meaning. The celebration takes place from the night of the 29th of November till November 30th (St. Andrew’s Day), which is a time of magic games with candles and fortune-telling.

It is believed that on this day, Saint Andrew can help young unmarried women to find their future husband. On the night of November 29th, a group of friends meet all together in order to discover their future in terms of love.

Warsaw Uprising Memorial Day

On Tuesday, 1 August 1944, at 5pm, the Warsaw Uprising erupted. It was one of the most important and the most dramatic events in the history of the city. Every year on this day at the same time the city commemorates the heroes: an alarm will interrupt the activities in the city and all the people in Warsaw will stop for 1 minute. Cars will stop, pedestrians will freeze.

100 Years (Sto Lat)

Poland might be the only country in the world where people don’t say “happy birthday” but wish each other to live for 100 years on every birthday;

02.

Holidays

Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek)

Takes place each year on the last Thursday before Christian Lent. People usually celebrate it by eating enormous amounts of pączki and faworki. On that day you will see many people standing in huge queues in front of bakeries just to get fresh warm donuts, starting as soon as 6 am. For many Polish people it’s the last day to eat “fat & sweet” food and drink alcohol before Lent.

Wet Monday (Śmigus Dyngus)

Tradition of Easter Monday which can be basically called one big water fight. Whether you use balloons filled with water, water guns or a hose is your choice as long as you get your family and friends soaking wet.

The tradition most likely dates back to the 14th century, when boys soaked girls with water on Monday and Tuesday was a time for revenge for the girls. It is also speculated that its origins predate Christian times and were connected to the March equinox and the coming of spring with water being the symbol of the renewal of life.

1st November

All Saints Day. On this day, Polish people lay flowers and candles on the graves of deceased family members and friends to pay tribute to them. Special church services are held to commemorate the saints in various towns and cities in Poland.

11th November

National Independence Day. On 11th November 1918, Poland regained its independence after 123 years of partitioning by Russia, Prussia and Austria. On Independence Day, there’re a lot of parades, marches and festivities across the country, with the main event held on Piłsudski Square in Warsaw, as it was before the Second World War.

3rd May

Constitution Day. One of the most important annual celebrations of Polish independence and nationalism. On this day the Polish Sejm (parliament) proudly signed Europe’s first national constitution and second in the world, following the American one, in Warsaw’s Royal Castle back in 1791. Constitution Day is a part of a holiday season called Majówka, which also includes the May 1 - Labour Day holiday. It is celebrated in every major Polish city with numerous parades, exhibitions, concerts and public figure speeches with everything kept in a patriotic undertone.

03.

People in Poland

Each culture has its own unique features and quirks. Here are some things that may surprise you about Poles:
  • It’s not customary to kiss on the cheek upon first meeting. Instead, go with a firm handshake and genuine smile.
  • Don’t be offended when strangers on the street or in the bus look at you with a straight, even serious, face. Poles usually keep a neutral face expression in everyday life.
  • When addressing politely someone who is Polish it’s better to use the prefix Mister (Pan) or Miss/Misses (Pani) which comes before the name or surname of the person.
  • If you ask a Poles how they are doing, expect that they tell you the whole story of their day or even week instead of simply saying “I’m fine, thanks”.
Polish people are truly cheerful, friendly and kind-hearted. You will not get lost in the country because you can always find a Pole who will help you to get through!

04.

Polish food

Poland is well known for its delicious cuisine. You should definitely try:

  • pierogi (traditional dumplings with any type of filling)
  • żurek (a soup made using sourdough and white sausage)
  • barszcz (bortsch)
  • kiełbasa (type of meat)
  • kabanosy (dried meat)
  • gołąbki (minced meat with rice covered in a cabbage leaf served with tomato sauce)
  • bigos (chopped meat stewed with sour cabbage)
  • zapiekanka
  • placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes)
  • ogórek kiszony (traditional homemade pickles)
  • pączki (jam donuts)
  • makowiec (cake made with poppyseed)
  • twaróg (a type of fresh cheese)
  • Prince Polo (the most famous Polish chocolate bar)