Poles love it when they don’t need to go to work and they love to celebrate, so they have established as many as 13 public holidays and religious feasts, which are non-working days. Most public institutions, banks and shopping centres are closed on these days, and you will find most shopping centres full with people the day before. On public holidays, however, you may only find some local smaller shops in the neighbourhood, which will be open, but many bars and restaurants do cater to customers, so you do not need to worry you will starve.

In bigger Polish cities like Warsaw, Cracow, Gdańsk, Wrocław or Poznań public holidays are generally observed in the same way.

Special days (marked green) such as Women’s Day (8 March), Mother’s Day (26 May), Grandmother’s Day (21 January), Grandfather’s Day (22 January), Children’s Day (1 June) and Father’s Day (23 June) are normal working days and are celebrated mostly at home, with a family dinner and some gifts.

Below we list and describe the most important public holidays and observances in Poland in 2018:

Public holidays in Poland 2018
Date Holiday
Jan. 1st (Mon) New Year’s Day (Nowy Rok)
Jan. 6th (Sat) Epiphany (Trzech Króli) wikipedia
Jan. 21st (Sun) Grandmother’s Day (Dzień Babci)
Jan. 22st (Mon) Grandfather’s Day (Dzień Dziadka)
Mar. 8th (Thu) Women’s Day (Dzień Kobiet) wikipedia
Apr. 1st (Sun) Easter Sunday (Wielkanoc)
Apr. 2st (Mon) Easter Monday (Śmigus Dyngus)
May 1st (Tue) Labour Day (Święto Pracy)
May 3rd (Thu) Constitution Day (Konstytucji 3. Maja)
May 20th (Sun) Pentecost Sunday (Zielone Świątki)
May 26th (Sat) Mother’s Day (Dzień Matki)
May 31st (Thu) Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało) wikipedia
Jun. 1st (Fri) Children’s Day (Dzień Dziecka)
Jun. 23rd (Sat) Father’s Day (Dzień Ojca)
Aug. 15th (Wed) Assumption (Wniebowzięcie)
Nov. 1st (Wed) All Saints’ Day (Wszystkich Świętych)
Nov. 11th (Sun) Independence Day (Dzień Niepodległości)
Dec. 25th (Tue) Christmas Day (Boże Narodzenie)
Dec. 26th (Wed) Boxing Day (Św. Szczepana)

When a public holiday falls on Saturday an employee is entitled to an extra day off. The day off is observed on a normal working day mutually agreed between employer and employee. In 2018 there is one public holiday – Epiphany, which falls on a Saturday. If the holiday falls on a Sunday employees are not entitled to an additional non-working day. Always consult an HR representative to confirm how it works at your company.

A traditional Polish Christmas

A small version of a Christmas szopka

A small version of a Christmas szopka

Poles start their Christmas festivities earlier than most countries, with a family dinner on 24th December. It’s the most important day of Christmas, and there are many customs connected with it.

At the Christmas Eve dinner, there have to be 12 dishes on the table. In some families it is also obligatory to try them all. Some of the dishes found on Polish tables on Christmas Eve are widely known, like barszcz z uszkami (beetroot soup with dumplings) or pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms. It is also customary to serve carp and other fish dishes, since it is a day of fasting. There are many regional dessert specialties as well, such as makiełki, moczka or kutia.

Before eating Poles share opłatek – a Christmas wafer, very thin and white, embossed with religious motives, nativity scenes, such as the Holy Family, or the Star of Bethlehem. It is a reminder of the body of Christ. In most Polish households a handful of hay is placed under the table cloth on Christmas Eve. It is a symbol of the manger in which Jesus Christ was born. It is also customary to set an additional plate on the table, reserved for an unexpected guest, an absent or dead family member, or the baby Jesus.

The Christmas presents are opened on Christmas Eve, after the meal. In some regions of the country a Baby Jesus or an angel brings gifts, but usually it’s Santa.

At midnight, everyone goes to pasterka, which is a Midnight Mass (more literally, shepherds’ mass) featuring singing carols and rejoicing at the fact that “Christ the saviour is born”.

Among other Polish Christmas traditions worth mentioning are szopka and jasełka. Szopka Bożonarodzeniowa is a nativity scene, an exhibition of various art objects representing the scene of the birth of Jesus. Polish nativity scenes can be true pieces of art, with moving objects or even live animals. Jasełka is a nativity play, nowadays usually performed by children at schools or in church.

After pasterka Polish people return to their celebrations at home. The next days are as festive as Christmas Eve. Families and friends visit one another and celebrate. For Christmas dinner Poles prepare various meat and poultry dishes. Because they have a reputation for hospitality, they usually prepare so much food that it lasts till New Year’s.

There’s nothing like a traditional Christmas celebration to enjoy the famous Polish hospitality!


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