“Jestem pełna” This is how to say “I’m full” in Polish. It is essential to learn this short sentence before endeavoring to partake in any Polish holiday. If you fail to master this phrase, good luck fitting into your New Year’s dress.
While Christmas in America is centered around presents, Christmas in Poland is devoted to eating. This isn’t just random face-stuffing. There are many complex rules pertaining to the feasting. These rules are backed by bizarre and flimsy reasoning, as are many Christmas traditions around the world (see previous story for example on Catalan pooping nativity characters).
Here is one such rule: On Christmas Eve it is forbidden to eat animal meat. Only fish are allowed, and it is required to eat them in abundance, with karp being the traditional star of the show. The reason for this strict pesco-vegetarianism is as simple as it is ludicrous. On Christmas Eve, animals can talk. Cows talk. Sheep talk. Chicken talk. Fish, unfortunately for them, never gain this magical ability. However, on Christmas morning, when the magic wears off you must stuff as much pork down your throat as is humanly possible. Rinse with vodka, repeat.
So, when the herring is passed around for the fifteenth time and your shot glass is topped off yet again, you must repeat “jestem pełna” over and over again to get your point across. Once will not do. Twice is just a bashful and polite way of saying “yes, I’ll eat more.” Three times should get you off the hook for at least five minutes.
But, really, there is no way to avoid the excess of food and drink that comes with a Polish Christmas. And with pierogie ruskie and roasted duck on the table, would you even want to?