Poland – A European Christmas Story

In Poland, Christmas Eve dinner (called Wigilia) is the one of most important celebrations of the year. Although this meal is reserved for the closest family, it’s customary to set an extra plate and seat for an unexpected guest, or even a vagrant. Most of the dishes served are cooked specifically for this special day.

Christmas Eve dinner starts when the first star appears in the sky. Nothing is to be eaten until all members of the family have broken the Christmas wafers (opłatek) together and exchanged wishes for good health and prosperity. During the meal, all of the guests should taste a bit of everything.

The supper, which traditionally includes 12 dishes and desserts, may last for a couple of hours. According to tradition, bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger.The meal is followed by an exchange of gifts. Tradition calls for 12 traditional courses to be served during the Wigilia. Meat is not allowed. This number is a symbol of wealth, the 12 Apostles and a representation of the 12 months of the year.

 A personal story

By: Mateusz Szydelko

Q1. What do you have for Christmas dinner?

Wigilia’s 12 traditional courses

  1. Christmas Eve red barszcz with porcini raviolis (uszka)
  2.  Christmas Eve mushroom soup
  3.  Christmas Eve carp (currently other Fish is served too)
  4.  Pierogi (stuffed with potato, cottage cheese)
  5.  Pierogi (stuffed with sauerkraut and mushroom)
  6. Braised sauerkraut
  7. Cabbage rolls (gołąbki- the stuffing is vegetarian and contains grains buckwheat, pearl barley or rice and dried forest mushrooms).
  8.  Herring.
  9. Greek fish (breaded fish fillets covered in a thick sauce made of fried leek and onion, as well as stewed grated carrots, celery roots and parsley root).
  10. Kutia (ancient dessert with origins in Eastern Europe made exclusively for Christmas Eve dinner).
  11. Old Polish piernik (gingerbread).
  12. Poppy seed cake (makowiec).

Q2. What is your fondest memories of Christmas?

The best memory is when I was given a puppy, it was the best present ever.

Q3. What types of presents do you get from friends and family?

It depends really, kids are getting really expensive presents like: game consoles, cell phones and so on. Most of the presents are for them. I think the older we get the more symbolic presents we give/get.

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