Two of the most important during the year are, of course, Christmas and Easter.
Christmas days are family time. The celebration begins with supper on December 24, when the first star hits the sky. It is a symbolic reference to the Star of Bethlehem announcing the birth of Jesus. Before sitting down to the dinner, family share pieces of a wafer and everyone is wishing each other all the best for Christmas and New Year. This custom is a reference to the Last Supper and the sharing of bread. On the table should appear the traditional 12 dishes, under the table there is hay, and there should be an additional cover for the “unexpected guest”. An additional place at the Christmas Eve table is intended for an unannounced guest or absent, close person. Traditionally all dishes should be meatless. The main ingredients of the dishes are cabbage, mushrooms, and fish; for the desserts: honey, nuts, poppy seeds, and raisins.
After eating, you can unwrap your presents under the Christmas tree. Attention! Naughty children can get a rod! An important part of the tradition is also singing carols, in some areas, especially villages, the carolers also go around the houses. At midnight a lot of people are going to a special mass, named “shepherdess”. It is commemorating the arrival of the shepherds in Bethlehem, who was the first to pay homage to the newborn Christ. December the 25th and 26th are intended for further celebrations, meetings with family and friends, and the rest.
The period of the carnival begins after January 6 – the day of the three kings. Currently, in Poland, it is not very pompously celebrated. Main events are organized in the last week of the carnival, which starts on a “Fat Thursday” when Poles are eating donuts, usually with rose filling. Balls and parties are organized mainly in the interiors due to unfavorable winter weather outside. The carnival ends on Tuesday, when the party plays around, before Ash Wednesday, which begins in the time of Lent in anticipation of Easter.
Easter in Poland is a mix of Christian traditions and folk customs. Palm Sunday takes place a week before Easter and the faithful go to church with colorful palms, which are blessed there. In Jerusalem, Jesus was greeted by crowds of inhabitants who recognized him as the Son of David. Jesus rode through Jerusalem on a donkey, and people threw palm and olive branches under his feet. This day begins Holy Week when Catholics go to church to take part in various services. On Holy Saturday, most Poles, no matter whether believers or not, go to church to bless the Easter basket. The baskets are nicely decorated, each with eggs, a sugar lamb, salt, bread, sausage, and horseradish. On Sunday everyone starts with a big celebratory breakfast, at the beginning of which wishes are made and divided with foods blessed the day before. The tables are dominated by eggs in various forms, boiled white sausage, vegetable salads, meats, pâté. For lunch Poles serve white borscht soup or sour soup. The second dish has more freedom, traditionally it is meat. For dessert, you can find special cakes prepared only during Easter time: baby and mazurki.
The following day is also a holiday in Poland and it is called “Wet Monday”. Everyone is pouring water on other people, so don’t be surprised if you get wet. In the past, the boys were pouring buckets of water onto girls. Nowadays, it works both ways and people are usually more subtle and they use small water pistols or other water weapons, for instance in the shape of eggs.
Kasia from Poland, graduate in tourism and management. During free time love to travel and hike.
Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth, and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing to a diverse and rich Europe.
Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.
In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.
Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.
We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.
Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.