Christmas in Krakow was everything I had hoped it would be. My parents and I started our celebrations with a lovely walk through the very empty old town. I've never seen the Rynek so quiet.
After wandering around snapping pictures of the many Christmas decorations, we ended up at a local hotel, eating a traditional Polish Wigilia dinner. And yes, it was 12 courses (10 full courses, with beverages and bread taking it up the required 12 dishes). Here's dish number 5.
Luckily for me, 4 or 5 of the courses were fish, which I don't eat, so I had room for the dessert course, which was actually three dishes: gingerbread, compote, and some kind of fruit cake.
I should mention that both of my parents made it through all 12 courses. I really don't know how they did it, as I was full just from my paltry 6 or 7.
After dinner, we walked (waddled really), over to the yard of the Franscican church for what turned out to be my favourite moment of the evening. We stood amongst the crowd watching the live nativity play, complete with donkeys, goats, lamas, and sheep. Several times during the play, the audience spontaneously joined in the hymn and carol singing, filling the night air with ancient songs.
Families were wandering around the site, warming their hands at bonfires, while children joyously tried to pet the donkeys and lamas, who were really more interested in munching hay.
Around 11 pm we went into the Franciscan church to view the nativity scene inside. Enchanted by that display I decided we should visit another one in a church a few minutes away, before heading to midnight mass. As we walked through the Rynek this time it was alive with people on their way to mass or just enjoying the atmosphere with friends.
After visiting the 2nd nativity scene, we made our way back to a third church for the mass, but unfortunately the church was full. No worries I assured my parents since there are dozens of churches in the old town. However we left it a little too late, because even though we tried 4 more churches as my father quipped "there was no room at the church."
No matter, the whole evening was lovely, and more than just a little bit magical.