Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Probably each country has some special traditions and customs that are unique but at the same time confuse or bring puzzlement to those who are not familiar with them. There are many types of behaviour that for the Poles seem natural while for other people might seem eccentric or weird. Here are couple of facts that probably differ the Poles from many other nations.
When entering somebody’s house (but also own house) the Poles usually take off shoes. It is perceived impolite to come in without taking them off – especially in winter, as most of the houses or apartments’ floors are covered with carpets. Nowadays, when being a guest, you might be told that taking off your shoes is unnecessary but if you still do, it will surely be appreciated. Apart from this, you will see that all family members act this way.
Kiss the lady’s hand.
When getting to know or greeting a woman, a man should kiss her hand. It is a very old custom, which is still practised among well behaving people or older generation. Even if you are a younger man, people will still be pleased when you behave this way – especially when meeting an old lady. If you meet mother or grandmother of your fiancée it is almost a must!
If you visit a very good friend or family members it is not necessary that you let them know about this fact beforehand (especially if you are sure that they are at home at that time). It is not perceived impolite to pay unexpected visit to people that you are on very good terms with.
In Poland, when planning a wedding, the couple usually goes from house to house of those whom they want to invite. The invitations are not sent by post – but they are presented personally to the future guests.
Saturday – the day of weddings.
Most of the weddings take place on Saturday. As Saturday is usually a day off – the guests can easily spend the day preparing to the celebrations, then at the church and afterwards having a great and night-long party! As the reception finishes for many of the guests on Sunday morning, all day can be spent on getting rest after the party. Very few weddings are organised in Poland on regular weekdays.
Birthday or nameday?
While in many countries people celebrate their birthday, in many regions of Poland it is common to celebrate nameday. Each name has a special day in calendars. It is especially older generation of some regions of the country that makes big family meetings for that occasion. Family members meet, a lot of food is prepared and a lot of vodka is drunk!
Santa Claus or Saint Nicolaus?
In many Polish houses Santa Claus (or more specifically Saint Nicolaus) comes on the 6th of December (not on Christmas Eve). The event commemorates St Nicolaus who was the Bishop of Mira (Turkey). Nowadays people started more and more celebrating Santa Claus as a new western tradition, however at least small gifts are still distributed on 6th of December.