Christmas traditions continue, but we miss their meaning

Christmas traditions continue, but we miss their meaning

Once upon a time people were perfectly aware of the meaning of particular props, dishes, and gestures; everything had a magical and symbolic dimension. Today, many traditions persist, but knowledge about them is missing - says ethnologist Dr. Grzegorz Odoj, prof. Of the University of Silesia

“On the eve of Christmas, the theme of tradition returns, that is, the intergenerational transmission of customs, rules, norms and ritual actions. Their practice strengthens our identity, local and regional distinctiveness. There is also the age-old question: why do we do this. In most cases, this original meaning, the original symbolism of these actions has disappeared in our consciousness, but we continue to do it, because this is what my father, my mother, and my grandparents always did, and this is what should be done, ”said the ethnologist from the University of Silesia.


He added that in the past people were well aware of the meaning of individual props, dishes and gestures. "Everything had its magical and symbolic dimension, for example, the empty plate on the table was first associated with the commemoration of the spirits of ancestors, later it was for a stray wanderer or even for the Lord Jesus. The same goes for the dishes. For example, such a poppy seed: today we eat it in the form of a cake, kutia or poppy seeds - but without thinking that it is a symbol of fertility. Currently, we do not see these magical conditions anymore, because we do not have such a need, ”explained Odoj.

He also pointed out that a large part of the traditions associated with Christmas come from the old peasant culture. "Today's culture is primarily the city's culture, it is the city that dictates fashions and trends," he added.

The expert recalled that the tradition is changeable. “It seems to us that where the notion: tradition, traditional, it is about something eternal, and it is not. An example would be one of the Christmas icons, which is the carp. He generally appears only after 1945. " - He said.

He added that in every tradition there is a core that changes slowly or even very slowly. In addition to the aforementioned carp, you can also point to a Christmas tree.

On the other hand, among the new elements of Christmas celebration, the ethnologist mentioned trips to exotic countries (although nowadays it is difficult due to the pandemic) or mutations of the Christmas Eve dinner, e.g. in a vegan version.

Also popular culture - continued Odoj - introduces new elements, such as family watching of the popular Christmas comedy, which is broadcast on TV every Christmas.

The ethnologist concluded that although the meaning of many customs is already slipping away, we still celebrate Christmas consciously. “Holidays are an important part of our life, it is a reversal of our everyday life. And although we are currently observing the desacralisation of holidays, this ludic, emotional sphere will remain with us for a very long time, ”said Odoj.

PAP - Science in Poland, Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik

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