Another Christmas has come and gone…I hope you all had an enjoyable time. It’s been wonderful to relax, see family and friends and of course, enjoy plenty of good food and cheer. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas for me without starting it all off with a Polish Christmas Eve meal at home with my family. My mother spends almost the whole week preparing and cooking for Christmas Eve – traditionally known as Wigilia, or the Vigil meal - (from the Latin term vigilare meaning “to await”)
It is a meal full of symbolism, for example, we always set an extra place at the table for the unknown visitor (it’s amazing how someone always knocks at the door during the meal and this year was no exception!) we lay hay under the tablecloth to represent the manger, we eat when we see the first star and we begin our twelve course meal (representing the twelve apostles) by breaking bread or a wafer called Opłatek and exchanging good wishes.
During this meal, no meat is eaten – all the courses are either fish or vegetarian dishes, such as Barszcz (beetroot soup) Uszka (mushroom filled dumplings) Szledzie (cured or pickled herrings alongside smoked salmon) Ryba (fish, traditionally carp, although any white fish can be eaten) Pierogi (dumplings filled with cream cheese and potato, or sauerkraut and mushrooms) and then desserts, Sernik (Polish baked cheesecake) and Makowiec (Poppy Seed Cake). Other courses could include Kompot, compote made with dried fruit, salads, stuffed cabbage parcels and noodles with poppy seeds. After the meal, Christmas carols are sung and then we usually make our way to Midnight mass, called Pasterka or ”the Mass of the Shepherds.”
Polish Pierogi - dumplings filled with cream cheese and potato
I always feel incredibly lucky to be able to celebrate and mark this Polish tradition with my family. And, we are fortunate to be able to spend Christmas Eve with my Polish side of the family and Christmas Day with my husband’s side of the family – so there are never any arguments about where to spend Christmas. Christmas Day involved a sumptuous roast turkey and gammon lunch, with all the trimmings, rounded off with two Christmas puddings!
I’d love to know what your Christmas traditions are and how you celebrated…I’m guessing it won’t have involved herrings or beetroot soup…!