Monday, December 28, 2009

Sylwester or New Year’s Eve traditions in Poland

The oracle Sibyl made a prophecy that the year 1000 would be the end of the world. The dragon Leviathan imprisoned in the dungeons of Vatican by the pope Sylvester I was to bring about the doom waking up from his sleep and destroying the world. People were awaiting the midnight with fear and uncertainty, however, to their relief the dragon did not come out, their despair turned into euphoria. The current pope Sylvester II blessed everybody and in his memory December 31st is celebrated in such a festive way to this day and is called Sylvester.

New Year's Eve in Poland is celebrated with costume parties and social gatherings spanning the transition of the year at midnight. Fireworks displays are also part of the celebration. At midnight people drink a champagne toast and wish each other all the best, this is a much-loved tradition, something bubbly is always a festive way to commemorate a special occasion. Traditionally in Poland Tokaj - the Hungarian white wine was the favourite choice. One could also tell fortune from the bubbles – if they were moving slowly that would signify a calm year without problems, however, if they were moving about quickly that would signify some important changes coming.

New Year’s Eve in the cities in Poland can be celebrated at more or less formal balls. Some of them have a long-lasting tradition, as for example the ball at the Warsaw Philharmonic Society, the sportsmen’s ball or the ball at the castle in Golub-Dobrzyn attended by “the man of the year”. A New Year’s Eve formal ball always begins with a polonaise.

In the country the New Year’s Eve day gave in the past an occasion to unpunished pranks of all kinds. It was not unusual for the village jesters to disassemble somebody’s wagon and reassemble it on the roof of a house, or to smear windows and door knobs with tar, or only to hide pots that had been drying on a fence. In Zywiec region for example, groups of boys disguised as devils, bears, Gypsies and beggars scour the village and with the earsplitting whip crackling and rattling of empty cans they will accost any young woman they come across and knock her down in snow. All the tricks are forgiven for they are believed to be ousting the old passing year.

When it comes to celebrating the New Year, every country and every culture has its unique routines and charms to influence the incoming year. They're believed to bring into the new year good fortune, health, prosperity, and love. Whether superstitions first showed up as a deep-seated need to make sense of the world around us, or whether it was to control the world around us isn’t important. What is important is the curiosity, hope, laughter, and family unity that traditions undoubtedly bring to every family from every culture. Below is a conglomeration of rules, rituals and beliefs from Poland that are certain to christen the New Year as the best year yet.

It is customary to kiss the one you love or hope to love at midnight as if to say, "Congratulations, to us for making it through another year!". Kissing your spouse or significant other at midnight ensures that you will remain intimate with that person. To not kiss means a cold relationship for the year.

Whether it is a silent promise to one's self to stop telling white lies or a big declaration of intent to lose weight, a New Year's resolution is a must. Many find it easier to make a fresh beginning as symbolized by January 1. To avoid bad luck in the coming year it is also good to get rid of the current problems by writing them out on a red piece of paper and burning it.

It is common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Nothing goes out on that day – not even the garbage. The flip version of this rule is that nothing goes out until something new comes in. No money should be spent (that would be going out). One should also pay all the debts otherwise they will have financial problems in the coming year. No sweeping or dusting the first day of the year. The good luck could be swept out. If you have to sweep, you should sweep towards the center of the house and use a dust pan.

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, in some areas of Poland paczki or doughnuts were baked to assure wealth for the whole year. Another important characteristics of New Year’s Day was bread-baking. Different animals were shaped from the dough - sheep, rabbits, geese, cows. Godparents often gave these bread animals with best wishes to godchildren as presents.

Other traditions include, that those who wake up early on New Year’s Day will wake up early for the rest of the year and will be full of energy. Those who touched the floor with the right foot when getting up from bed could expect a lot of good luck the whole year. And those who wanted to get rich had to put change in a small bag and run through the fields shaking the bag and making a lot of noise. It is also good to avoid quarrelling and be friendly towards other people so as to spend the whole next year in such atmosphere.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Traditional Polish Christmas

Christmas Tree

As in most countries around the world we have adopted the German tradition of decorating a Christmas tree. However, an old Polish custom exists, observed to this day in small villages: a treetop of a pine tree is cut off and then turned upside down and hung from the ceiling. Most people use fir trees smelling of the forest and decorate them with lights (originally candles), tinsel, baubles, candies wrapped in coloured wrappers, gilded walnuts, fruit and ornaments (snowflakes, snowman, icicles, bells and angels imagery are popular choices). An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity. Another old custom is to hang the mistletoe under the ceiling, it is a symbol of love, peace and goodwill and is believed to be the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore bringing good luck and health. Decorations create a unique ambiance in the house and make the festive mood more vibrant.

Nativity Scene

A representation of the Nativity Scene is also often displayed in the house, it exhibits figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Mary's husband, Joseph and other characters from the Biblical story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels. The figures are usually displayed in a stable. and people are encouraged to compete and create most original or realistic ones. Kraków szopka (pron.: shop-ka), or nativity scene is a Christmas tradition dating back to the 19th century. Unlike traditional Nativity Scene, Kraków szopka portrays historical buildings from Kraków.

Christmas Gifts

We too adopted the tradition of Santa Claus. However, in our tradition he comes a day earlier--on Christmas Eve and we don’t open presents on Christmas day but after the traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Eve Dinner

Traditionally we sit down to the dinner when the first star appears in the sky. Before dinner we break and share with the wafer, the holy bread usually blessed by the priest, while wishing one another all the best. That bread comes in small squares with pictures portraying moments from the life of Jesus or the saints. We traditionally have 12 dishes on the Christmas Eve table. We leave one set of plates extra on the table to show that we are happy to welcome any unexpected guests. Another custom is to put hay under the tablecloth. In my house we also used to put small coins under the table cloth or a fish scale in the wallet - both to bring prosperity. Among traditional Polish dishes there are: red borsch from red beets served with small dumplings filled with mushrooms or mushroom soup, pierogi-traditional Polish dumplings with cabbage and mushroom filling, herrings, and carp which is an absolute must and is served in all sorts of ways: fried, a la Greek, in aspic, Jewish style etc. For pudding there are traditionally cakes made with poppy seeds, my favourite is the so called kutia as it has plenty of nuts, figs and raisins and also other cakes like gingerbread or cheese cake. There are also some other regional dishes that vary throughout Poland.

“Pasterka” - the midnight mass on Christmas Eve

It literally means "the Shepherds' Mass". We traditionally go to church at midnight in memory of the shepherds who were the first people to find Jesus and sing Christmas carols together.

Christmas Day

We traditionally spend the Christmas day with family and the meals still have a festive character with the whole family gathering around the table.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comenius Project Meeting in Kraków

Dear Friends from Slovenia, Italy, Latvia and Lithuania!

Thank you for coming to Kraków!

It was a pleasure to host you in our school and beautiful city!


The principal of European College in Kraków - Aleksander Korzec

The coordinator - Joanna Pillans

The project teacher - Anna Krzemińska-Kaczyńska

 *    *    *  A few words from Polish students   *   *  *

Hello, this is Szymon from Kolegium Europejskie high school in Cracow (Poland).

I had a chance to take part in the Comenius exchange program and host two Slovenian people. It was a new experience to me as I’ve never before participated in any school exchanges. 
I hosted two female Slovenian students: Nika and Irena for about one week. At first, they were a little bit shy but after short time we all could talk freely. Girls were very kind to me and my family. During all these days the weather was really, really bad, so it was a pity that our guests could not fully enjoy the sightseeing. Despite that, they apparently liked it very much. There were many trips organized, including those to Zakopane, Auschwitz and Wieliczka. Unluckily, my guests didn’t have any suitably warm clothes and shoes with them so if you want to go on a Comenius exchange, please think twice about what you take with yourself :)! Nika and Irena enjoyed Polish cuisine, especially pierogi. At the end, Slovenians gave my family big chocolate and a printed album of Slovenian landscapes. We gave them some amber jewellery, which is traditionally associated with Cracow.  
In general, my guests really enjoyed the exchange. Nika and Irene seemed to be positively surprised by what is Cracow like. Now, I’m looking forward to fly to Sicilly as a part of Comenius program.

Szymon Bartuś, IB2 class

*  *  * 

Dear Friends,

The Comenius Project Meeting was   a great experience. I think everyone could learn a lot! it was an intensive week and each day was packed with things to see and people to meet. The first day was a good way to start off the week, when we all gathered together at the town hall and every country had its presentations. A great event was Tuesday`s night - Saint Andrew`s Evening. Everyone got a chance to relax and have some fun. It was a great opportunity to share our Polish traditions with our overseas students. An evening like that was needed to get everyone talking and interacting with each other. 

In my opinion, The Comenius Project Meeting in Kraków was a great idea and a great success:) I certainly enjoyed the week and I believe my international students did too. Hopefully, there will be many more meetings like this one to come. I`m sure this expereince will stay with us for a long time.... :)  

Natalia Dębska, pre-IB class

*   *   * 


The Comenius Project Meeting in Kraków was really fun! we went on a lot of great field trips. In my humble opinion, the best part of our meeting was Saint Adrew`s Evening - in Polish Andrzejki. It was our job  - pre-IB class - to take care of the games that we were all playing at the party. After the games we taught our new friends how to dance Polish dance - and after a while we had  a great time dancing. Our class was responsible for preparing interesting games for the students from Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Italy. The play and evening came out really good and I think they liked them. 

I also took part in the field trip to Oświęcim. It was very touching for everybody..... What happened there to those tormented people is very tragic. Besides, it was really cold when we were there and by such weather conditions we all felt very depressed and sorry... The movie they showed us at the end of the tour about the camp and prisoners taught me many things and facts I didn`t know.

Visiting snowy Zakopane was full of emotions :)

During one week I met a lot of cool people from Europe:) and I hope I will have a chance to see them again someday.

Overall, I had a lot of fun and I will never forget Meeting in Kraków.

Sandra Struzik, pre-IB class

O u r     f r i e n d s    v i s i t i n g     E u r o p e a n    C o l l e g e


TEACHER: Antra Gertmane


Morkevičiūtė Karolina, Šimoliūnaitė Laura, Kučinskaitė Iveta, Skeisgielaitė Gabrielė, Lepševičiūtė Milda, Ručinskaitė Paulina, Račkaitytė Iveta, Bakanaitė Erika, Januškaitė Jolita, Vaitkutė Milda,  
Teacher: Ilona Martinkaitienė


Katja JEMEC, Sonja ČRV, Irena KOŠIR , Nika JESENKO, Katarina JERAJ, Primož KRIŽNAR, Nik MAIERLE, Žiga RADULJ, Boštjan CERAR, Žiga VIDIC, Urban FRONTINI, Kristina KEBER, Pia TERZIČ, Maja PLESTENJAK 

Teachers: Vladimir JANEŽ (coordinator),     Mojca GUŠTIN  


Amato Caterina, Agola Alessandra, Longo Giovanna, Trovato Beatrice, Butera Angela, Milazzo Rossella Maria, Pampalone Rosalia, Dara Federica, Garacci Mariangela, Lipari Floriana, 
Teachers: La Monica Giovanna,  Sorrentino Mariella (coordinator),  FundarÕ Annalisa

* * *

Teachers from Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy &  Poland.


The Image of the Other! 



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Comenius Meeting in Kraków

Comenius Meeting in Cracow

12-16 October 2009

Slovenia Italy Lithuania Lotva Poland

Hello and Welcome dear friends from ITALY, LATVIA, SLOVENIA and LITHUANIA
on behalf of the Headmaster, teachers and students of the European College in Cracow

My name is Dąbrówka Żarska, I'm 15 years old and I attend the Pre-IB 1LO class at the European College in Cracow. I'm thrilled to welcome you soon to the beautiful city of Cracow, in which I hope you will feel right at home in (or at least somewhat at home). In my school, there are students from all over the world! Some are from Cracow and from nearby cities, while others (such as myself) are all the way from the United States and AUSTRALIA (of all places)!!!!! So as you can see, this gathering of students from all over the globe will truly be a MULTI-CULTURAL experience. During your visit, I'm sure you (and we as well) will learn all sorts of interesting new things about not only Cracow and Poland, but also about all the other countries visiting. I hope that the warm, cheerful and inviting hospitality of the people, mixed with the delicious taste and smell of the food and the beautiful architecture and land will make this trip one to remember and hopefully you'll visit us again soon.

Dąbrówka Żarska

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Students of European College

    Pre-IB Class 

Slovenia - my memories - The Image of the Other

Discover Ljubljana
     As you probably know, or don’t know :))), recently there was an exchange with Slovenian students organized, in which I was fortunate to take part. However, I won’t provide you with pleasure of reading about thrilling expedition to a cave or exploring the seductive charm of Slovenian architecture. What I wanted to write about is the thing, which I found to be the most interesting during this exchange,  which is, or rather are, differences between “our”and “their” culture, which we had opportunity to get to know from the very first day, or rather night. 
   We spent the first night of our exchange in the hotel, close to the city centre of Lubljana. If you have studied geography you know that it is the capital of Slovenia. At least it’s the only thing I knew about Slovenia by that time and that with my always insatiate desire of knowledge was the reason why I decided to fill in the gaps of my mental map. As I stepped into Lubljana’s streets, the first thing that struck me was the tranquility of the city, which wasn’t disappearing as we were getting closer and closer to the centre. As I later found the cause of that phenomena was closing of almost all cafés, bars and pubs by midnight, which was, I have to admit, quite stunning for a person being used to the night life of Cracow. Not less surprising was the amount of clubs which reached the remarkable number of four. As Lubljana has about 250 thousands of citizens, I quickly counted that for one club falls about… many young people who are likely to visit one of such institutions:)) on Friday night. However, as I got to the club with the graceful name “Ultra”, it got clear that apparently it’s “No country for young men”. My suspicions were confirmed in another club, K4, which was said to be the best club in Lubljana. Well, maybe it was for twenty people, including seven djs having “fun” there, tapping with one feet to the rhythm of music and keeping the safe distance from the other users of the club, especially those of the opposite sex.  
    Eventually I got back to the hotel, feeling a bit unsatisfied by the Lubljana’s nightlife, but rich in new experiences of another kind, about which and also many more, I will tell you in the next edition of “Kolegium Europejskie Daily”.

Michał Porwisz, IB1

Postojna Cave (Photo No1), Piran (Photo No2:
students of IB: Mateusz Domagała, Michał Porwisz, Gabriela Mamoń, Karolina Ambroziak, Łukasz Marcinkowski, Sonia Wosiek, Monika Kozłowska, cooridnator of Comenius Project in our
school Joanna Pillans & teacher of European College Anna Krzemińska-Kaczyńska

Comenius Project - The Image of the Other

The Image of the Other
27 March - 6 April 2009 Ljubljana, Slovenia 

    At the end of March ’09, eight students from our school went to Slovenia to take part in an international exchange program called The Image of The Others. We were hosted by families of Slovenian students, who also took part in this exchange, and will come to Poland in October. 
    Our trip started with a gathering of all of the students from Latvia, Lithuania and Italy who, same as us, decided to become a part of TIOTO. After short presentations of the countries, we went bowling. Although it was a great fun, more important was a chance to meet and talk to the other participants. During the rest of the days we had an opportunity to visit most of the important museums in Ljubljana, but also our plan included one-day trip to Postojna cave. Our group was astonished by the clash of modern buildings and galleries with old monuments.
    We were all amazed by the warm welcome and a great trip plan. Also we are thankful for the given opportunity to learn something about Slovenia. At the end we would like to mention that we are looking forward to hosting our Slovenian friends, and showing them how great is our hometown, Cracow.

Michał Porwisz & Łukasz Marcinkowski, IB1

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saint Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day or Saint Valentine's Day is a holiday celebrated on February 14 by many people throughout the world. In the West, it is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine's cards, presenting flowers, or offering confectionery. The holiday is named after two among the numerous Early Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

An alternative theory from Belarus states that the holiday originates from the story of Saint Valentine, who upon rejection by his mistress was so heartbroken that he took a knife to his chest and sent her his still-beating heart as a token of his undying love for her. Hence, heart-shaped cards are now sent as a tribute to his overwhelming passion and suffering.

The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines." Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. The sending of Valentines was a fashion in nineteenth-century Great Britain, and, in 1847, Esther Howland developed a successful business in her Worcester, Massachusetts home with hand-made Valentine cards based on British models. The popularity of Valentine cards in 19th-century America was a harbinger of the future commercialization of holidays in the United States.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Meeting in Alcamo

Comenius Project - The Image of the Other - Coordinators` Meeting
in Alcamo, Sicilly 2008. 

Our school and teachers in Alcamo, Sicilly. 

Teachers from Sicilly, Slovenia, Lotva, Lithuania & Poland 
Meeting with students of Liceo in Alcamo 
Sicilian landscape 

Celebration of St. Andrew's day

A Tradition of Fortune Telling
There is a long tradition of fortune telling especially for non-married girls on the November 30th in Poland. We need to remember that every day in Polish calendar has it’s patron. November 30th is under the patronage of St. Andrew. The habit of fortune telling is called St. Andrew's Night, in Polish Andrzejki.

St. Andrew night was celebrated since the turn of XVI and XVII centuries. The main purpose of Andrzejki celebrations is to predict the future of unmarried girl, especially her prospects for a good marriage.

Eve of St. Andrew’s Day
A few ways of telling the fortunes. The most popular way of predicting the future of unmarried girl is melting wax and pouring it into a bowl of cold water. Wax is then picked up from the water, raised to the light, and the girls try to see the similarities of it to real objects. Depending on the shapes, fortunes are told for the following year.

Another way to fortune-telling.
In another traditional way of fortune telling, girls stand in a circle leaning over a bowl of water with a small floating walnut shell containing a tiny lighted candle. Each girl pastes a slip of paper with the name of a favored young man on the inside edge of the bowl above the water. To whichever name the lighted candle sailed to and burnt, a marriage proposal from him could be expected.

The other belief
In another game, a scarf, a ribbon, and a rosary are placed separately under three plates. A girl,with her eyes blindfolded, turns around three times while other girls rearrange the plates. If she draws a scarf, it means marriage; a ribbon - single for another year; rosary - becomes a spinster or a nun.
There are many other methods of divining one's future husband, including the use of a pendulum, tea leaves or apple peelings. Celebrating St. Andrew's Day continues to be a popular tradition in Poland.