December is a confusing month in Poland. The sixth is Święta Mikołaj (sorry about the spelling and/or grammar), or St Nicholas' day. This is an occasion for anticipatory present-giving, which I was not aware of. Imagine the horror of being a Polish parent in December. Twice the agony of queueing in Hamley's (whatever the equivalent is here) for a Thunderbirds 'Tracy Island', a My Little Pony Dream Castle and so on*. Birthdays will almost certainly be banished until January.
Generally, there seems to be a healthy separation of Christmas and Advent here, although, as with Halloween, Anglo-Saxon elements are starting to filter through. Traditionally, you shouldn't decorate your Christmas tree (choinka, for the language geeks) until Wigilia (Christmas Eve), but logistics mean that lots of families now put them up a day or two earlier. I mean, who can face the whole tree routine (braving Homebase on a Sunday afternoon, dragging the tree into the house without treading on the dog, Is it straight? Is it leaning?- trying to follow the cryptic instructions for screwing it into the base without spilling soil everywhere, where on earth are we going to plug in the fairy lights??) on top of last-minute visits to godparents, turkey-stuffing, crib services (even when your kids are all well into their twenties), present-wrapping, midnight mass, not to mention dropping into the pub for a swift half or four to escape it all (one of the advantages of having kids who are well into their twenties) ...
05 Dec: St Nicholas Market opens on Rynek.
And here are some pretty pictures: