The Polish Culture Poland, a country who’s the size of New Mexico, is located in northern-central Europe. The country being founded in the tenth century by a man named Mieszko, derived from a Slavonic tribe near Poznan (Poland, 2005); Poland meaning “dwellers or people of the field, meadow, or plain”. In the 16th century, Poland used to be one of the most powerful countries in Europe (Communication Department of the European Commission, 2004). After 1939, changes in the countries boundaries and migration of ethnic people by the Communist government, the country became an almost mono-ethnic society.
In the polish culture, there is a unique characteristic that has been developed as a result of their geographical placement of surrounding European regions. Even though their culture originated from the culture of the Early Slavic’s, through time the Polish culture, and dialogue, started to be influenced by its ties between the Latin, Byzantine, and Germanic worlds that were surrounding them (Culture of Poland, 2013). The population of Poland is around 38.1 million (Communication Department of the European Commission, 2004), 98% Poles and the other two percent being small groups of Ukrainians, Germans, Lithuanians, Byelorussians, and Slovaks. The Poles speak a Slavic “Polish” language with Russian being the common second language learned but in recent decades have been replaced by English and then German. (Krakow Breaks). In recent years Poland’s population has decreased due to the increase in emigration to the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Ireland in search of better work opportunities. It is also decreasing due to a severe drop in the birth rate (Poland, 2013). Up until World War 2, Poland was a religiously diverse group. For the most part the average citizen was Jewish, Christian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant (Agency). As a result of the Holocaust and post-World War 2, Poland is now roughly 95% Roman Catholics and the other 5% are either Eastern Orthodox or another form of Christian religion (Kreija, 2006). Though freedom of religion has been guaranteed since the 1989 statute, there is still pressure from the Polish communities to keep the exposition of religion in the education system. In Poland, all religious holidays are considered national holidays when most businesses are closed; the most important holiday being Christmas lasting two and half days (Poland, 2007). The traditional Christmas here in the states is much different to that of Polish traditions, one of the few similarities being the universal symbol of the Christmas tree. In many countries the religious significance has been lost, but this isn’t the case in Poland. On Christmas Eve most Poles work then go home to prepare the main Polish Christmas meal, Vigilia. The Vigilia is the most important meal of the year thus the preparation is very careful. Though the Vigilia is varied throughout, it is normally without meat and can be up to eleven courses long. The whole celebration is based on family and remembering those who have passed on. Family is the center of social structure in Poland, they are one’s obligation, even if it is extended family (Poland, 2007). During preparations it is usual to have Christmas Carols playing once the breaking of the Oplatek, a thin wafer, has been done between the family members and a prayer. An unusual tradition that must be followed is to always have an extra place setting for any unexpected guests during these types of gatherings (Polish Culture and Traditions, 2008).
Another tradition that is used in Poland that would be seen as “odd” in America is their greetings, “they are generally reserved yet courteous,” (Poland, 2007). Most Polish people are very hospitable and welcoming. A normal greeting for men is to shake hands with each person with direct eye contact and a smile. If he has a closer