New Year Customs in Poland

Happy New Year!

Okay, happy Belated New Year, anyway.

New Year’s Eve celebrations got very cosmopolitan in the last few decades, with most countries doing the same thing: concerts, fireworks and champagne. It was not always so, however, and there used to be some specific customs and superstitions that seem to dwindle under the strenght of the new, globalised approach.

Firstly, you will not hear anyone speak of “New Year’s Eve” around here: the day is universally referred to as Sylwester, since it technically is the day of Saint Sylvester ; so much so that the actual male name sounds odd and men of that name are used to unfunny remarks about champagne corks.

New Year in Poland

But before all that, before shiny gowns and tall glasses, there were small, local customs that, despite a completely different entourage, were in their heart and soul very similar. There may not have been flashy, expensive fireworks, but around midnight young people banged saucepans, irons and tins, cracked whips and generally tried to make as big a din as they could, to chase the old year away. All sorts of customs were said to ensure prosperity in the new year: cooking up huge amounts of bread dough, or even smearing windows with it, filling purses with money, even borrowed money, so as to not have it empty when the new year comes. What happened to an individual on the coming of the new year was supposed to foretell the future, so if the purse was empty, it would stay that way. For this reason it was also bad luck to spend the night alone, lest one stay alone the whole year. Young girls did many things to try and predict who would get married and who wouldn’t, similarly to Saint Andrew’s Day.

Today, most people go out and party, much as they do everywhere else, and it would be difficult to tell countries apart by their New Year’s Eve celebrations. But it’s nice to know we still uphold the old traditions of not being alone on that night, and of making as big a din as humanely possible.

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