What Is the Christmas Tradition of the Roraty in Poland?

christmas-tradition-roraty-poland Credit: wlodi/CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Roraty, or Rorate, which is a Polish tradition that's been observed during Advent since the 13th century, is a mass that begins in the darkness before sunrise. The name comes from the Latin words for "drop down ye heavens from above" from the book of Isaiah. The phrase occurs in plainsong that is sung frequently during the mass and vespers, especially during advent.

The Rorate begins in total darkness. Participants carry torches that are lighted at certain times during the ceremony. Gradually, candles on the altar are lit, and by the end of the Mass, the church is illuminated by candles and sunlight. The custom is believed to date back to the time of King Boleslaus, husband of St. Kinga, who lit the first candle and was followed by six noblemen or clergy in descending order of status lighting the next six candles. The ritual is designed to show that participants are alert and ready for the coming of the messiah. Rorate is a long-standing custom in German-speaking countries.

In the largely Catholic country of Poland, the 40 days leading up to Christmas are not celebrated with excess food or drink but by fasting and prayer. During advent, Orthodox Christians abstain from meat and dairy foods, and they also abstain from olive oil, wine and fish on certain days.