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Why Polish children look for the first star on Christmas Eve

CHRISTMAS
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An old Polish tradition honors the star of Bethlehem before the Christmas festivities begin.

Christmas Eve is an important night for many families, and each culture has developed various traditions over the centuries. In Poland, one important tradition that many families still honor involves children looking outside for the first star on Christmas Eve.

A writer in a periodical entitled Poland of Today briefly explains one version of this cherished tradition.

In memory of the Star of Bethlehem, the celebration starts on Christmas Eve, December 24th as soon as the first star appears in the sky … [then] the candles are lit on the Christmas tree. The children are ushered in for the ceremony and this is the first time that they see the tree in its full splendor.

The first star signals the end of the Advent fast and once it is spotted, the special Christmas Eve feast begins! Often it is children, sometimes the youngest in the family, will be the ones who bear the news of the first Christmas star.

The tradition recalls how it was a star that led the Magi to worship Jesus, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

Often a prayer will accompany the sighting of the first star, led by the host of the Christmas Eve dinner. According to the book A Polish Christmas Eve by Rev. Krysa, the host will pray the following words recalling the symbolism.

On this years shortest of days and longest of nights, a star appears shining in the darkness. For on this night,”the Word was made flesh.”

The star has appeared announcing His birth. The star of Bethlehem guides the Three Wise men in their search for the new-born King. For on this night, “the Word was made flesh.”

After a few more prayers and responses, many Polish families will begin their Christmas Eve dinner by breaking bread, another highly symbolic action.

Unfortunately, finding the “first star” has been made extremely difficult if a family lives in a city, where street lights dominate the night sky, or when the forecast predicts a cloudy evening. However, the “essence” behind this tradition can still be celebrated, possibly looking for when the sun sets (which is when the first star would typically appear).

If you are looking for a special way to begin your Christmas Eve festivities, consider inviting your children to look for the first star to commemorate the Bethlehem Star, which still leads us today to worship the newborn Child.

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