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Kulig - old Polish winter tradition

Kulig is an old Polish winter tradition dating back to the days of the gentry's hegemony. Nowadays, the custom has been revived for special occasions, like New Year's Eve, when it is celebrated again, albeit in a more modern version. We believe, however, that the fun and thrill of it have remained the same despite the passage of time.

The following describes a typical Polish kulig. Families get together and may visit a neighbor who they mutually agree will be willing to be the first host, and treat the guests with customary Polish hospitality. If possible, the householder who has a birthday or namesday during these days is considered the obvious choice for host. Everyone in the families, young and old, becomes an actor and eagerly joins in the fun-filled days of merrymaking.

 

The day is set, the actors are ready, and the revelry begins. It usually starts with the sleigh ride at night. If the air is crisp, the moonlight bright and the necessary snow as high as the fence, then Kulig has no obstacle to a round of hilarity that will sustain them through the quiet days of Lent.

In the country, horses ply the snowdrifts, sinking to their bellies in the feathery billows as they pull their happy cargo, and crisscross the farmlands, sometimes forsaking the roads and paths for a more hectic and turbulent ride through the fields to thrill the passengers.

Caravan of revelers have a long ride, or have an unexpected breakdown before they get to the home of the host, they may choose to make a stop at the nearby inn. This is an occasion for wine and pranks, and is a beginning of the hilarity that will last until the day breaks after the last stop of the sleigh ride. Usually this is an opportunity for the ladies to put on their costumes, which were carried carefully on the sleigh in order not to crush them. If the inn could not provide separate chambers, the makeshift partitions inspired the young men to much devilment. While the girls would be changing into the costumes, the bold young men would leap over the thin barriers to raise a chorus of squealing and screaming protesting the invasion of their privacy. The teasing became bolder and protests louder if the delay was long and the wine plentiful.