There is something, without which, the whole ambiance of Christmas wouldn’t be the same. This is choinka (Christmas tree). This is a feast for our, and definitely for our youngest generation’s eyes!
Magdalena and Anna, from our PolishOrigins Team, have prepared a special video presentation about making traditional Christmas decorations, out of paper and straw. These are patterns and techniques passed down from our grandparents and local artists, at the workshops organized by the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw, in which Magdalena and her 9-year-old daughter participated last year.
We cannot imagine today’s Christmas without a Christmas tree, but what might be surprising is that this is not a traditional Polish custom. This tradition came to Poland from Germany in the 19th century and popularized after the World War 2. Now we have colorful “bombki”, or as we call them in southern Poland, “bańki” (Christmas balls), candies, electric lights and ‘ready-made’ decorations. But at the beginning of 20th century, Christmas trees in Poland were decorated by apples, nuts, and hand-made decorations. Parents with their children were having a good time in the long winter hours, preparing decorations. They used what they had; straw and pieces of paper.
Earlier, the interiors of the houses were decorated by podłaźniczka. It was a truncated peak of the spruce or fir, which hung down the peak, usually in the kitchen at the ceiling over the table Christmas Eve. It was decorated with apples, nuts, colorful wafers and biscuits. The word podłaźnik in dialect mean guest. Hence, there was also a tradition of podłazy: a group of young boys walking around in the village, pouring with oats and wishing the welfare, harvest, health, and happiness to all members of the household. The habit of podłazy is still cultivated in some villages today, and usually on 26th of December.
The tree had to be chosen carefully by the householder or one of his older sons. They did it after the St. Martin Day (11 November), but the phase of the moon was also important. People believed that it is the best to cut the tree on “New Moon”, to ensure a long life of the tree and not losing needles.
The Christmas tree, or podłaźniczka, was brought into the room on Christmas Eve – after it was standing outside or on the farm premises. It was usually decorated by women and children. With more and more access to different goods, it began to shine with candy, colored chains, and eventually bubbles. The Christmas decorations usually remained until February 2 (the holiday of Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, traditionally known as Candlemas). In some of the regions, the trees disappeared earlier (on January 6 – Epiphany).
Other popular Christmas decorations were światy (“worlds”) and pająki (“spiders”). Światy were the balls made of white wafers. The name światy was to honor the birth of Jesus Christ – the Lord of the World. The decorations made from wafer should bring the peace, harmony, and love to the household. Pająki were cylindrical shaped chandeliers, and decorated with colorful chains of tissue paper, straws, textile ribbons, and candles.
And now, when you know the basics of Christmas home decorating, it’s time for some practice: Watch the videos made by Anna and Magdalena. You will also find there templates of some traditional patterns, just in case you wanted to try to make them by yourself or maybe with some help from your younger generation.
To make this angel you will need:
- strong thread
- the second pair of hands might be useful 🙂
Size of straws depends on you. Ours are about: 5 inches for the angel’s body, 2.6 inches for hands, 2.4 inches for wings. Straws should lay in water for about half an hour and be dried a little before you start to use them.
Colorful paper bird
To make the bird you will need:
- colorful paper
- needle and thread
Patterns of the bird’s parts can be found here: https://polishorigins.com/public/pictures/bird_pattern.pdf
Tissue Paper Bubble
To make the bubble you will need:
- colored tissue paper
- needle and thread
Tissue Paper Star
To make the star you will need:
- colored paper
- colored tissue paper
In case if you want to read more about Polish Christmas traditions, click hear to read the article about Christmas Eve (Wigilia).
If you want to see more examples of beautiful Polish Christmas decorations visit our board on Pinterest.