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.

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