Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Christmas in Poland

In Poland, Christmas Eve supper is the main part of the celebrations, considering family gatherings as well.
When I was little, the Christmas Eve supper started when the first star appeared in the sky (usually it was about 6 PM). That was why my sister and myself watched the sky, through a closed window, to let everybody know when it was time to begin the festivity. The waiting part was tough - we could not wait to see the star!

Before the meal everybody shares a piece of the holy wafer, wishing each other all the best and good health in the new coming year. All quarrels, bad blood which happened earlier are supposed to be forgiven.

Sharing the Christmas wafer with you - God bless you all!
According to tradition, an empty plate/ additional seat at the table is prepared, in case if an unexpected visitor came for supper. Nobody should be alone on Christmas Eve. Another custom is to put some hay beneath the table cloth (for good luck). I guess it has some connection with the stable where Jesus was born.
The Christmas Eve menu varies, depending on the region of Poland but, traditionally it is always a meal which consists of twelve meatless dishes. The number (12) relates two the twelve apostles and twelve months in the year. In connection to the latter one, everybody should eat at least a bit of each of the twelve dishes, to have good luck thorough the entire next year.

What we had on the menu at our family home:
  • Mushroom soup, made from pieces of dry boletus and home made (by mum of course) pasta  - so delicious!
  • Noodles with poppy seeds mixed with honey, raisins, chopped nuts and some vanilla extract - my dreamy Christmas dish.
  • Fried fish with boiled potatoes - traditionally carp is eaten on Christmas Eve, but we did not care for it too much (it has a kind of silt taste due to its life habitat) so we preferred fried cod.
  • A salad made of sauerkraut and grated raw carrot + a bit of sugar (which is usually served with fried fish).
  • Compote (based on dried fruits) to drink. 
  • Herrings - I like them made in different ways: herrings in cream with chopped onion and pineapple pieces, herrings in oils with onion rings, so called 'Jewish style' herrings - sooooooooooo good!
Big plate: pierogi stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms
  • Fish balls in aspic.
  • Bread.
  • Vegetable salad.
  • Poppy seeds yeast log.
  • Cheesecake
  • Ginger bread

After the supper it was time to open the presents which had been placed by Saint Nicholas under the Christmas tree. It was a reason why the kids (including myself) did not want to eat much - we were simply eager to finish the supper quickly and open the gifts. But it was allowed only when everybody finished their meal.

And then, all the family sang carols, enjoying the holiday meeting and being together.

We most often did not go to bed as we waited till midnight to go to church for the Midnight Mass. The winters at that time were mostly freezing and snowy so when we were walking from the church, the frosted snow under our boots was making crunchy sounds and the white, fluffy snow was shimmering magically in the night street lights. When I was little a part of our Christmas tradition was meeting our neighbours after the midnight service (every other year we went to their place/ or they visited us). We talked and have some holiday food including meat and sauerkraut stew and more cakes. It was such fun!
It is said that the Christmas night is the only night in the year when all the animals can speak like humans - so beware what you can hear from your pet, in case if they have been mistreated in any way! Our dog never said anything but at the time when we were unpacking presents, he was surprisingly  sad when he found nothing for himself under the Christmas tree. The dog was actually a puppy then and it was his first holiday at our home. He seemed to be really sorrowful so we put a rubber toy under the tree and called our puppy. How playful he got when he saw the 'gift'! Since then, every Christmas, we always prepared a little something for him too. Nobody should be forgotten at this time of the year!

All in all, due to all the Christmas Eve excitement, we most often did not get up early on Christmas Day. And there was no reason to do it. All the presents had been received, so Christmas day was the time of relaxing or meeting some relatives again.
26 December is called 'the second day of Christmas' and it is a day off/holiday too. Another day to enjoy and celebrate with family and friends. Not to mention having more festive food!

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia!

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