Christmas brings out the fairy tale side of Krakow, and as a strongly Catholic country, religious feasts are much to the forefront, forming a big part of the Magic of Christmas. The Main Square is the focal point, with numerous Christmas market stalls and everywhere the heady smell of grilled sausages and mulled wine, while the surrounding Planty gardens twinkle with lights and decorations. For Christmas shopping, aside from the markets there are specialist boutiques and deco shops, as well as famous high street brands and modern malls.
The big day of celebration for Poles is Christmas Eve: people finish work early and families get together for a traditional 12-course dinner. If tradition is followed correctly, no food is eaten on Christmas Eve until the first star is visible in the sky; good job it’s one of the shortest days of the year! The dinner is meat-free, with fish – traditionally carp – as the main dish. Other courses comprise various specialities, such as pierogi, beetroot soup and kutia, a traditional Polish dessert consisting of wheat, raisins, honey and spices. Christmas day itself is a public holiday, with pretty much everything closed, but boxing day, while still a holiday, will see bars, restaurants and cinemas opening. Click here to see restaurants with Christmas or special menus over the holiday period.
Out of the many events taking place, here are just a few highlights.
Live Nativity: from 24th-26th December in the grounds of the Franciscan Church, real animals and people recreate a tableau of the Nativity.
Christmas cribs (Szopki) on display: the annual competition for model Nativity scenes in a uniquely Krakow way; winning entries are on display in Historical Museum until mid-February the following year.
Below, you may see the video from Galician Anvent Market held on Jan Nowak-Jezioranski Square, opposite Main Railway Station and Galeria Krakowska.
On Boxing Day itself there is Royal Chamber Orchestra concert in St Adalbert church.
Each church also has its own Nativity scene, often extremely elaborate and ornate, and these are well worth checking out. Traditionally, children receive presents on St Nicholas’ day (6th December), although another the possibility of gifts on Christmas Eve is also welcomed!
For New Year the celebrations are more secular, and some of the selected events include:
The New Year’s Run, which takes place at noon on New Year’s Eve with a choice of 5 or 10 kilometre routes. There are prizes for the winners and for best costume.
The New Year’s Eve concert at the Krakow Philharmonic – popular classics with perhaps a dash of jazz.
Watch a movie: studio cinemas in the Old Town offer a special night of films/champagne/snacks for an inclusive fee.
Or maybe simply immerse yourself in the rich diversity of Krakow’s nightlife; you’ll find parties large and small, ticket-only or open to everyone. A celebratory shot of vodka is mandatory, and you romantics will be pleased to discover that mistletoe has just the same significance in Poland as elsewhere!
"Once you step onto the road, and you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to" - J.R.R. Tolkien