Christmas post: Mikołaj v. Viejo Pascuero


In order to have fun during this holiday season, I made myself a challenge. What about comparing and making a short list of how Christmas is lived in Poland and in Chile, with vocabulary, food, traditions and such? Hopefully, at the end of the post, I’ll realize where it’s better to spend Christmas.

I’ll make a list with some common questions about the celebrations, so you can understand the similarities and differences better.

  1. Who brings presents? If you think that either Santa Claus or Father Christmas give presents in Chile and Poland, well they don’t. In Chile, not even Papá Noel. The gift giver in Chile is… VIEJO PASCUERO (lit. Old man from Christmas). Now you’ll be highly confused on why the word Pascua is used when you usually associate with Easter. Well, there’s a reason to it. Most religious holidays in the Catholic Church are called Pascuas (from Hebrew Pesah). So, there is Pascua de Resurrección (Easter itself) and Pascua de Navidad (Christmas). Anyways, Viejo Pascuero resembles a lot the depiction of Santa Claus from Coca-Cola. However, many people have tried to adapt him to the actual climate conditions of Chile in December: hot and sunny weather. My friend Natalia has shown on her blog her actual adaptation and there have been songs written about how Christmas is lived here. He visits everyone in Chile at Midnight during Christmas Eve.
    Now, in Poland, things gets more confusing. There is Saint Nicholas (Św. Mikołaj) who visits children during his name day and leaves them candy (Dec 6th) and sports a traditional priest robe and also during Christmas (though current depictions show him closer to the Coca-Cola Santa Claus), buuuut… your family might call him Gwiazdor (Star carrier) or Aniołek (little angel) who actually brings presents after the Christmas Eve dinner.
    Just because Poles get a small sample of what coming next, Poland 1 – Chile 0.
  2. When do they celebrate the most? How do they celebrate it? Okay, December is always a party-filled month, but what these two countries have in common is that they don’t wait for Christmas day itself. Christmas Eve is the most special day here. Both in Poland and Chile, people work half-day and students are already on holiday, so it is a day in which people usually stay at home and get ready for it. Chileans usually go to Misa del Gallo (Christmas Eve Mass) which is held more or less at 7-8pm, when the sun is about to set (woo hoo Christmas in summer!) and after, more or less at 9-10pm, Cena de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve dinner) starts. It’s more or less a fancy dinner in which the most popular dishes are fish preparation, Roasted turkey or chicken and… PAPAS DUQUESAS, small fried balls of mashed potatoes (most people buy them frozen and heat them in an oven though). After that, dessert comes: usually fresh fruit (watermelons, peaches), ice cream or frozen cake and pan de pascua (some kind of Chilean Christstollen, but with no marzipan). For digestif, a cola de mono (monkey tail: milk, coffee, cloves, cinnamon and aguardiente liquor) is a popular drink that is served with ice cubes.
    Poles also have their Christmas Eve dinner, called Wigilia. It is way earlier than Chilean dinner, since it starts when the first star is seen in the sky (ca. 3-4pm). Before that, most Poles fast and this dinner has no meat dishes. It consists of 12 dishes, in which you can find PIEROGI RUSKIE (Ruthenian dumplings -one of my favourite Polish dishes ever-), BARSZCZ (beetroot soup), cold salads, KARP (carp fish), some sweets like PIERNIK (gingerbread), MAKOWIEC (poppy-seed cake), among others. Before dinner starts, you must crack an OPŁATEK (Christmas wafer, quite similar to the one given in Church for communion) and… there’s always one spare seat for unexpected visitors, a token of Polish hospitality.
    I will consider this a tie: Polish food and hospitality is great and Chilean Christmas food isn’t bad. I mean, eating watermelons for Christmas! 🙂 . Poland 2 – Chile 1.
  3. Now… When are presents given and exchanged? This is also different. Chileans get their presents at midnight sharp. Children are asked to look for Viejito Pascuero outside and look at the sky… and at 00:01, presents are magically there! That Viejito Pascuero is quite fast and effective (he should run the post here) 😀 . Children often stay awake for a while, playing with their new toys while grownups stay at home, drinking digestif until everyone goes to bed quite late. In Poland, presents are given right after dinner and at midnight, people tend to go the Pasterka (Christmas mass) in Church.
    Since building up excitement and looking at how happy all children can get with that hope is probably the most interesting phenomenon of Christmas… my point goes to Chile. Poland 2 – Chile 2.
  4. What people do next? And on Christmas day? I must say that in Chile, most people go to bed right after the party. In Poland, they tend to watch TV, especially KEVIN SAM W DOMU (Kevin alone at home or Home Alone) and other Christmas movies. Christmas without Kevin’s adventures in Poland isn’t Christmas at all. In Chile, the lowest ratings on TV ever happen either during Christmas Eve or New Years. Everyone is more focused at preparing the dinner and spending time with family. Sometimes, people may watch random episodes of LOS SIMPSON (The Simpsons) either on one of the local channels or pay TV (usually FOX Latin America holds marathons with episodes of The Simpsons for that time). Yes, for any Chilean under 35, The Simpsons are a show they cannot stop watching or quoting.
    Christmas day in both countries is a day of relaxing and meeting with more relatives and eating the famous leftovers: Resztki z Wigilii in Poland or Los restitos in Chile.
    Since there are more similarities than differences here, both countries get a point: Poland 3 – Chile 3.

CONCLUSION: Both countries have equally exciting, fun and interesting Christmas celebrations and traditions. Sure, for most Poles a Christmas in hot weather is something wild and crazy, whereas for Chileans, eating 12 dishes would be too much to handle. The most important thing is that this day is quite special for both countries as it is a family holiday, despite its initial religious significance. Anyways, with this post I wish you all a Happy End of Year Holiday Season.

Wesołych Świąt & Felices Fiestas!


One Comment

  1. My Santas are in the closet!! I should get them out. 😀 Thanks for the mention.

    Still, you gave way too many points to Poland! JK.

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