„Silent night, holy night…” sounds in every corner of the world, it announces that Christmas is coming - the most awaited Christian holiday of the year. It is the time for family and friends, the time when we meet tradition and excellent cuisine.
Christmas beginnings are rooted in IV century and then the date of Jesus birth was set on 25 December instead of Roman holiday - the birthday of Unconquered Sun. Currently also 26 December is celebrated in many countries.
In Poland Christmas Eve (evening 24 December) is most solemnly celebrated. House is beautifully decorated, in the central place stands the Christmas tree – the symbol of life, rebirth and fertility. Table is prepared for the feast including twelve dishes. It is customary to leave one plate and seat at the table in case lonely stranger knocks our door this evening. We start celebrating by exchanging wishes and breaking off a Christmas wafer, which is embossed with religious images for example nativity scene.
We don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve. First course is a soup – mushroom, fish, sweet almond soup or red borsch with tiny dumplings stuffed with dried wild mushrooms. Fish reigns on the table, in Poland carp is a Christmas Eve must-have, there are numerous local recipes, but especially popular are fried carp, carp in the jelly or in grey sauce. We also prepare cod in the vegetables and wide range of dishes with herrings. We serve many dishes with sour cabbage such as dumplings, noodles, peas and mushrooms. Traditional desserts are gingerbread with plum preserves and poppy-seed cake with raisins, nuts and orange zest. In the Eastern Poland kutia is very often prepared for dessert. It is a mixture of cooked wheat, poppy seed, honey, raisins and sunflower seed. In the Silesia and Greater Poland makiełki (makówki) are eaten, it is similar to kutia, but instead of wheat, we use noodles or challah and add milk. At the end of Christmas Eve dried and smoked fruit compote is served. It is made mainly from cooked dried apples, plums and pears.
When the first star (commemorating the Star of Bethlehem) appears in the sky members of the family exchange presents – this custom has its origins in Roman Saturnalia. Children believe that presents are brought by Santa Claus, whose predecessor was bishop Saint Nicholas of Myra, famous for his generosity to the poor. At midnight Christians gather in the church for the special Midnight Mass called Pasterka, where Christmas carols are sung. Carols have been an inseparable part of Christmas celebration since its beginning.
Next two days of Christmas are reserved for family meetings, as well. We eat roasted meat – turkey is becoming more and more popular on our tables, but traditionally pork ham with cloves is served in many homes.
Polish Christmas is unique not only because of magic atmosphere, traditions rooted in ancient times, but also due to its exceptional cuisine – seasonal products and dishes prepared only once a year.
© 2014 Verres en Vers | realizacja: Nabucco