Poland

Poland

Poland, Pol. Polska, officially Republic of Poland, republic (1995 est. pop. 38,792,000), 120,725 sq mi (312,677 sq km), central Europe. It borders on Germany in the west, on the Baltic Sea and the Kaliningrad region of Russia in the north, on Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine in the east, and on the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the south. Warsaw is the capital and largest city.

Geography

Poland, a country the size of New Mexico, is in north-central Europe. Most of the country is a plain with no natural boundaries except the Carpathian Mountains in the south and the Oder and Neisse Rivers in the west. Other major rivers, which are important to commerce, are the Vistula, Warta, and Bug.

Christmas

When the first star appears in the Eastern skies, the family gathers at the table for the Wilia Supper, a feast to commemorate the birth of  Jesus. The children watch for the first star to appear in the sky, thereby signaling the beginning of the celebration.

The mother spreads a small amount of hay beneath the center of the tablecloth and scatters some straw on the floor around the table and chairs as a reminder of the Christ Child’s Manger. Supper begins as the Oplatki are placed on the tablecloth above the hay and all say grace. Then each person takes an Oplatek or a piece of it large enough to break and share with everyone at the table while exchanging Christmas wishes. The oplatek is a thin unleavened wafer like altar bread at church, stamped with the figures of the God Child, Blessed Mother and Angels. It is known as the Bread of Love.

After Christmas, the priest visits the homes, (Kolenda), blesses it and the occupants and writes over the doors the initials of the Three Wise Men (KMB), Kasper, Melchior and Baltazar, in the belief that this will spare them misfortune.

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