Poland in December: tips for making the most of your winter in Poland

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Weather in Poland in December

In 2020, astronomical winter begins on December 21 with the winter solstice – it’s the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in Poland in the whole year. On a positive note – starting from December 22, the days in Poland get longer and the nights shorter. The length of the day goes from 7 hours 42 min. on December 22 to 10 hours 50 min. at the end of February.

Winter in Poland is cold and usually snowy. To stay cozy in cold weather in Poland, you will need a hat, coat, scarf, gloves, and winter boots. The lowest temperature is recorded in eastern and southern Poland. Remember that the temperature in the wintertime in Poland drops significantly at night!

The weather during the winter in Poland differs. Usually, the temperature is around freezing or a few degrees below, but it happens that the temperature drops below -20 °C (-4 °F). Recent years have seen an increase in average winter temperatures compared to previous years. Trends also indicate that we can start getting used to relatively warmer December in Poland and winter shifting for the period from January to March.

Because of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, December is a favorite month of many people in Poland. The name of the month – grudzień – comes from the Polish word gruda, meaning frozen ground. The average temperature in December in Poland drops below zero: -0,16°C / 32°F. The average rainfall level in December in Poland is 38 mm (similar level to March and April). Sunset on December 1: 3.27 pm, December 31: 3.32 pm.

Read more about the weather in Poland in winter (December, January & February).

Public holidays and dates to remember in Poland in December 2020

  • December 6

St. Nicholas’ Day (Mikołajki)
The name Mikołajki comes from Mikołaj (Polish for Nicholas), meaning little Nicholas. Children usually receive little treats – candies or toys. One of the traditions is to hide treats in shoes. Children should clean them the night before and the next morning (on Mikołajki day) they would find inside their shoe a small surprise.

  • December 21

The beginning of astronomical winter
The shortest day of the year.

  • December 24

Christmas Eve (Wigilia)
Christmas Eve is not a public holiday in Poland. However, most shops and businesses are open no longer than 2 pm. Christmas Eve Dinner – kolacja wigilijna – is the most important Christmas celebration in Poland. Click here to learn more about Christmas traditions and celebrations in Poland. The Christmas Eve traditions include waiting for a first star, the Christmas wafer (opłatek), 12 meat-free courses, an extra seat for an unexpected guest, hay under the tablecloth, a special midnight mass (pasterka).

  • December 25

Christmas Day (Boże Narodzenie)
A public holiday in Poland. Stores, malls, shopping centers, public institutions, schools are CLOSED. People in Poland usually visit family and friends to celebrate together, they go to church, sing carols (kolędy), spend long hours at the table. Find out more about Christmas traditions and celebrations in Poland.

  • December 26

Second Day of Christmas (Drugi Dzień Świąt Bożego Narodzenia)
A public holiday in Poland. Stores, malls, shopping centers, public institutions, schools are CLOSED.

  • December 31

New Year’s Eve / St. Silvestre’s Day (Sylwester
Start of the carnival season in Poland. People usually go out to parties and balls. At midnight or even before, fireworks shows start, arranged by the city authorities but also outside of apartments, in parks, playgrounds, etc. Stores are usually open no longer than 5-6 pm. Due to the covid pandemic, it is forbidden to leave the house on New Year’s Eve from 7 pm on December 31 to 6 am on January 1.

Read more about public holidays and dates to remember in Poland in the wintertime (December, January & February).

 Shopping Sundays in Poland in December 2020

In December 2020, there are THREE shopping Sundays in Poland: December 6, December 13, and December 20. On December 2, the Polish parliament adopted a new law introducing an additional trading Sunday on December 6. You can learn more about Sunday trade ban in Poland in our post: shopping Sundays in Poland in 2020 and 2021. Since our readers are asking about online stores offering home deliveries we have prepared a post with the a of online stores in Poland delivering groceries to home.

Where to buy a Christmas tree in Poland and the most popular real Christmas trees you can buy in Poland

In December, you can buy a Christmas tree in Poland on a street corner – pop-up tree lots appear overnight on street corners or in front of shops. There’s no standard pricing so if you like you can bargain a bit about the price;)

Major supermarkets and home improvement stores in Poland typically set up their live Christmas trees either in the garden section or in the parking lot. You can also buy a tree from your local garden center.

They will cut the stem of the tree you pick, net it and help you secure it to the top of your car if needed. You can buy a cut tree, a potted tree (grown in a field, dug up, and placed in a pot) or if you know that the Christmas tree will later go to your garden, you can buy a “rooted” tree (choinka ukorzeniona) – a pot grown tree (which has been planted in a container as a seedling).

In major cities in Poland, you can buy real Christmas trees online, type in google: choinka dostawa do domu and the name of your city.

A glossary of terms useful when buying a Christmas tree: choinka – a Christmas tree, w doniczce – potted, obsadzanie – putting a real Christmas tree in the stand, stojak – stand, lampki – lights, bombki – Christmas baubles.

The most popular real Christmas trees you can buy in Poland include: the Norway Spruce (świerk pospolity), the Blue Spruce or Colorado Spruce (świerk srebrny or świerk kłujący), the Caucasian Fir or Nordmann Fir (jodła kaukaska).

The Norway Spruce (świerk pospolity) is the only species of spruce that grows naturally in Poland and is the traditional Christmas tree (although recently overtaken by no needle drop fir). Spruce is completely resistant to low temperatures, which makes it, apart from Scots pine, the most common coniferous tree in Poland. It’s a quick-growing species so usually, the spruce is a bit cheaper than the fir. It has a rich green color and a stronger festive aroma compared to fir. When placed in a room, Norway spruce gives off a wonderful fragrance that many people think of as a forest and Christmas. If you value the fragrance of the tree you should go for the Norway Spruce. Compared to the Caucasian Fir, the spruce drops its needles faster so it’s important to keep the tree well-watered every day and located away from the radiator and other sources of heat.

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The Blue Spruce or Colorado Spruce (świerk srebrny or świerk kłujący) is a silver variety of spruce. Due to its easy cultivation in Poland and availability, as well as its dense needles, it is a species often chosen for the Christmas tree in Poland.

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The Caucasian Fir or Nordmann Fir (jodła kaukaska) is an increasingly popular Christmas tree in Poland – it’s a low-maintenance tree (the best option for those who want to put up their Christmas tree as soon as possible and not wait the last minute to start decorating). The fir Christmas tree does not drop needles (unlike spruce trees) but dries them over time and keeps them long after Christmas is over. You don’t need to worry about vacuuming during the holidays;) Its needles are soft and rounded so in general, the fir is more child and pet-friendly. It is usually more expensive than spruce and doesn’t have any fragrance. Last but not least, the Caucasian Fir has a wide base to accommodate lots of presents…;)

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Things you can’t miss in Poland in December

Hide the candy in the shoe of the person you live with

In Poland, on December 6, St. Nicholas’ Day (Mikołajki) is celebrated. The name Mikołajki comes from Mikołaj (Polish for Nicholas), meaning little Nicholas. On the night of December 5-6, small gifts are secretly given to children while they are sleeping (little treats – toys but most of all sweets). One of the traditions is to hide treats in shoes. Children should clean them the night before and the next morning (on Mikołajki day) they would find inside their shoe a small surprise. Chocolate Santas are most often such a gift – they can be bought in Polish stores already at the end of November.

In Polish schools on December 6 there is a custom of exchanging small gifts between students. Children decide in advance the amount for which they will buy a gift and draw a person from the class to be given a gift.

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Prepare an extra place setting at your festive table

One of the greatest Polish Christmas traditions is to prepare an extra seat at the table. One place more than the number of people gathered is placed on the festive table (including a plate and cutlery). According to tradition, an additional seat at the Christmas Eve table is intended for an unannounced and unexpected guest. The unannounced guest has a symbolic meaning – it is someone in need, poor, lost, lonely or without family. This tradition is to remind us and oblige us to think about others, about those in need. And to help others during the holidays, but not only.

In this way, we can also express the memory of our loved ones who have passed away.

The empty plate can also symbolize someone from family or friends with whom we cannot meet this year

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Accept the 12-course dinner challenge!

The tradition in Poland requires that the Christmas Eve dinner (on December 24) includes twelve courses (yes, TWELVE!!!). The host of the Christmas Eve dinner may be held accountable by children for this tradition;) This is where creative accounting comes in handy – 12 dishes may include for example bread, side dishes or desserts.

Everyone who associates Polish cuisine with meat dishes will be pleasantly surprised – all dishes served on Christmas Eve must be meat-free.

Typically, the dinner includes carp fish (karp), beetroot soup (barszcz czerwony), mushroom soup (zupa grzybowa) or fish soup (zupa rybna), dumplings with mushroom or cabbage filling (pierogi), cooked cabbage with mushrooms (kapusta z grzybami), herring salad (sałatka śledziowa), cooked vegetable salad with mayonnaise dressing (sałatka jarzynowa).

Desserts are included in 12 courses: noodles with poppy seeds, honey, nuts, and dry fruits (kluski z makiem, makiełki), a dry fruit compote (kompot z suszu), poppy seeds cake (makowiec), gingerbread cookies (pierniczki), cheesecake (sernik), kutia – made with wheat or barley grain, ground poppy seeds, honey.

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Read more about Christmas traditions in Poland.

Stores offering grocery home delivery in Poland

As many of you are now looking for home delivery options, we have compiled a list of online stores that deliver grocery shopping in major cities in Poland. We hope our list of shops will make your daily life a little easier in these challenging times!

In the post on our website, you will find organic food stores and regular stores, by city:

Current COVID-19 regulations and restrictions in Poland

Restrictions in Poland from November 28 to December 27:

  • On December 24 (Christmas Eve, stores are usually open until 2 pm), there will be NO “senior hours” (stores from 10 am to 12 am open only to seniors 60+) in stores.
  • Re-opening of libraries (1 person/15m2).
  • Events/meetings organized at home – with a maximum of 5 people/guests (the limit of 5 people does not include the host and people who live with the host).
  • Re-opening of stores in shopping malls and furniture stores (including Ikea) from November 28. There is a limit of people in shops and shopping malls – a maximum of 1 person/15 m2. The exception are playrooms in shopping centers which remain closed.
  • Schools are closed (remote learning) until December 22 (from December 23 until January 3 there is a holiday break – no online classes). This applies to all primary school grades (grades 1-8; children 7+) and high schools. The date of the winter school break in Poland has been changed. Usually, the winter break (ferie zimowe) times differ for each Polish province/voivodship each year. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has decided that in 2021, winter break throughout Poland will be in the same 2-week period: January 4-17, 2021. This means that the children will be at home until January 17, 2021 (either with online classes or as part of the Christmas and winter break).
  • Kindergartens and nurseries remain open.
  • Travel by international trains outside the EU’s external borders is suspended (rail traffic within the European Union’s internal borders remains unchanged).
  • Restaurants, bars, pubs closed. They can only sell take-away meals.
  • Hotels are closed (hotels available only to guests on a business trip).
  • Night clubs and discos closed.
  • Cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries, cultural centers are closed.
  • Swimming pools, aquaparks, gyms are closed.
  • Amusement parks and recreational parks are closed.
  • Beauty, hairdressing and tattoo parlors remain open in accordance with sanitary rules.
  • From 8 am to 4 pm (Monday to Friday, on school days), children up to 16 years of age are not allowed to be outside alone without an adult. This rule does not apply on weekends and when the child goes to school or comes home from school.
  • Public transportation -> 50% of the seats or 30% of the total number of seating and standing places.
  • The limit of people in shops. 1 person/15 m2.
  • It is forbidden to organize weddings, funeral banquets, first communion receptions.
  • Sporting events without an audience.
  • Trade fairs, congresses and conferences can be organized online.
  • Shopping hours for seniors. From 10 am to 12 am, from Monday to Friday, the stores (grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies) will be open only to seniors 60+. They apply to post offices as well. “Hours for seniors” do not apply to clothing stores, household appliances stores, furniture stores etc.
  • The limit of people in churches: 1 person/15m2.
Check our post with daily updates on recent covid regulations in Poland translated into English.

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Click on the photos below to read other posts:

festivals of lights, illuminations, and Christmas displays across Poland

Christmas traditions and celebrations in Poland

Unexpected Places to Experience a Winter Wonderland in Poland