Kashubians call Christmas Gòdë. Kashubian Christmas traditions were characterized by rich rituals, elements of which are also found in modern times. Decorating the Christmas tree, dishes eaten at the Christmas Eve supper, parades of carollers, and even giving gifts to loved ones are customs whose genesis dates back to the distant past.
Today, it is hard for us to imagine Christmas without a Christmas tree, a symbol of reviving life. The custom of placing a green tree in homes was taken over by Kashubians from the German population in the first half of the 19th century. Nineteenth century. Initially, it occurred only among the wealthy people, but over time it also became popular in villages.
The Christmas tree was eagerly decorated with hand-made decorations: straw and paper chains, hearts, angels and birds. Heavenly apples, candies and cookies were also hung on the twigs. At the latest, “angel hair”, baubles in the shape of Santa Clauses, angels, mushrooms, icicles and round baubles appeared on Christmas trees. Small, colourful candles fastened in tin clips at the ends of twigs were also lit, creating a unique atmosphere at home.
Kashubians paid attention to richly decorate the Christmas tree, which was supposed to bring them prosperity in the coming year. In the past, this was ensured by sheaves of straw placed in the corner of the room, the remnant of which is hay nowadays put under the tablecloth. During the holiday season, treatments were also used to plentifully pluck fruit trees – they were tied with a rope or tapped with an axe.
Happiness and joy were ensured in the coming year by the visits of carolling groups, wandering around the villages from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. Kashubians called them Gwiôzdki, Gwiazdor or Gwiżdże. Sometimes the procession consisted of even a dozen or so young men dressed as various figures and animals. A goat, a bear, a ram, a bull, a stork led by a Gypsy, walked in the company of Grandfather, Baba, Bride, Chimney Sweep, Jew, Policeman, Devil, Death, Monkey and other exotic characters. The carollers were led by Gwiżdż, today known as Gwiazdor.
Sometimes parents, hiding from their children, gave him small gifts, which he gave to children as a reward for saying the prayer correctly. The more modest the family was, the more modest the gifts were. It could be woollen socks, simple wooden toys and sweets. Sometimes the children had to be content with the so-called Bunter tellers, i.e. plates on which candies, nuts, cookies and apples were placed. And sometimes only sweets from the Christmas tree, and sometimes, unfortunately, nothing.
Houses were also celebrated by the Three Kings with a Star and carol singers with a nativity scene. Theatrical scenes were played in almost every household, wishing the inhabitants happiness and joy during Christmas and in the New Year. In return, they received money, sweets and alcohol. Colorful retinues of carollers can still be found in some Kashubian villages. This proves a deep attachment to the tradition and spiritual wealth of the former inhabitants of Pomorskie region.
On Christmas Eve, when the first star appeared in the sky, Kashubians sat down to a gala dinner. Fish dishes, potatoes and cabbage with dried mushrooms were eaten. Sweet dumplings with poppy seeds, dried fruit soup and the so-called carrot nuts. Leftovers from the table were symbolically given to the animals to make them obedient and behave well. In Kashuby, it was widely believed that animals spoke with a human voice that night, but you had to be careful because hearing it was bad luck! The Christmas Eve night was crowned with participation in a midnight mass, a holy mass commemorating the shepherds’ waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world.
During this special time, the Museum in Wdzydze invites you to see the historic interiors, where Christmas customs and rituals have been faithfully recreated – including preparation of Christmas decorations and decorating the tree, baking gingerbread and carrot “nuts” and Christmas Eve supper. Visitors to the Museum in Wdzydze will listen to stories about traditional Advent and Christmas customs and fortune-telling, and will also be able to play the role of Kashubian carol singers – Gwiżdża. The museum has also prepared a ritual workshop entitled: Christmas in Kashuby, whose participants will learn about the origins and traditions of decorating a Christmas tree and make paper, tissue paper and straw ornaments, which used to be used to decorate Christmas trees in peasant cottages and noble manor houses in Pomorskie.