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Wigilijne sacrum – między religią a magią

Dominik Zimny

The Christmas Eve sacred – between religion and magic

In this publication Dominik Zimny is presenting the traditions and customs of the period of Christmas Eve in the area of southern Podlasie, namely the last week of December and the first week of January. During this period, depending on the religion, all living Christians experience a unique time – the time of Christmas. It has always been known that Christmas time differs substantially from ordinary time, as Christmas time was full of rituals and traditions which, apart from purely religious values, possessed both magical and worship aspects. In traditional culture, the religious context frequently accompanied the magical-worship context, creating an inseparable ceremonial whole. Christmas Eve is no exception to this rule, which demonstrates a wealth of attributes and ritual forms, concealing in their structure both religious and magical values. An example of such a ritual attribute can be one of the Christmas dishes, that is, ‘kutia’, which possessed both magical and sacred character. In the structure of the Christmas Eve rituals this dish could exist as a dish creating a new life, which was reborn on that exceptional evening. Kutia could also be a fortune-telling dish used for divination in the household, and it could replace traditional, sacramental bread, particularly in Orthodox people, where kutia is having a sacred function. A similar character is presented by many other Christmas attributes and traditions, among which the author of this publication lists: fast, hay, Christmas tree, Christmas Eve dinner with selected dishes, as well as carols and carolling. The characteristics of Christmas Eve was presented on the example of Christmas traditions of southern Podlasie, as in this region of Poland many archaic and traditional ritual forms have been preserved until the modern times. What is more, the very characteristics depicts the multiculturalism of the Polish eastern borderlands. Special attention needs to be paid to the fact that some of the Christmas traditions of southern Podlasie are so deeply rooted in the consciousness and memory of the inhabitants that over time, they became a cultural identifier of the region.

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