Life in Poland

Christmas Dishes

If you think that 4 dishes of carp (which I don’t like) is enough fish for my mother-in-law on Christmas Eve, then you would be wrong. There’s also herring which I also don’t like. Misiu and the girls love it so I guess no DNA tests are necessary. The most popular herring dishes in our family are herrings in cream and marinated herrings with onions. Misiu also likes herrings with cream and dill and also with cream and mustard.

If cream is not enough fat for you, then I invite you to try vegetable salad made with mayo as the main ingredient. There are some vegetables too, potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, celery root, and parsley root. There are also hard-boiled eggs, pickles, salt and pepper and parsley. Everything has to be cooked and meticulously chopped into perfect cubes and then all mixed together with mayo. It is often served with bread and butter. It’s pretty good and fortunately appears again on Easter.

The Christmas Eve dinner starts with soup, that would be red beet root soup with little pierogi called uszka which means ears. They are stuffed with wild mushrooms and thank goodness my mother-in-law has already made them for us and they are in the freezer. Some families have mushroom soup or even fish soup. We also have regular sized pierogi stuffed with cabbage and wild mushrooms and once again my mother-in-law has saved the day because I cannot get the stuffing inside properly.

As I mentioned in the last post about carp, Christmas Eve supper is traditionally alcohol-free. The tradition is to serve compote made from dried plums or other fruits. And it counts as one of the 12 dishes.

We can’t forget about the desserts. My mother-in-law’s side of the family is from Lviv (this was Polish territory before the changing of borders after WW2) and my father-in-law is from the Szczebrzeszyn area (yes, someone actually comes from there), so we have a lot of nice regional desserts which are found in this part of Poland (the west) but originated in the east. They simply travelled here with the people when they were resettled after WW2. Poppy seed dishes are very important such as kutia. It is cooked wheat grains (but whole) mixed with poppy seeds, honey, nuts, raisins and other dried fruits and I love it! I also like makowiec which is a poppy seed roll. It is something between cake and bread. Some people also have kluski z makiem which is some kind of noodles with poppy seeds. My mother-in-law also makes cheesecake which she says is the only cake she makes that always turns out except the last time that she said that and then made it, it didn’t come out. And a gingerbread has been added to her repertoire this year along with Christmas cookies for the first time.

I wanted to make kutia once in the US in my hometown but that kind of wheat grain could only be found at the animal feed store in 50 pound bags. I like it, but not that much!

Ok, so do we have 12 dishes? I think so.

  1. wafer
  2. soup
  3. little mushroom pierogi
  4. cabbage and mushroom pierogi
  5. compote
  6. carp
  7. herring
  8. vegetable salad
  9. bread (always counted by my m-i-l)
  10. butter (always counted by my m-i-l)
  11. kutia
  12. cakes

If your dinner is more modest, such as ours will be, we count individual ingredients such as cabbage, mushrooms, veggies from the salad to make up our 12 dishes.

PS Pierogi is the plural form in Polish. The singular is pierog.

PS2 Don’t forget to put a bit of straw under your tablecloth. The Christmas Eve wafer symbolizes the body of Christ while the straw symbolizes the birth of baby Jesus in the manger.

I hope to add some pictures to this post after Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!

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  • Reply
    December 23, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Since my ancestors were from your beautiful town, I'm curious to know to what extent German traditions are left, or did they all go west with most of the folks after WWII?Merry Christmas!Pam

  • Reply
    December 24, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Oh, how much I love Christmas! I love the food (I like carp in natural gel even though it looks awful), shopping for gifts,cheesy Christmas movies.Love it all.My Jewish mother-in law often spoils it for me- she hates Christmas, pretends it doesn't exist and never wishes me Merry Christmas.My husband, on the other hand, seems to love this Christian tradition but would never admit it to his parents. I'm not sure what we're going to do once we have children….Have the most amazing holiday, Christa! I so wish I was in Poland with my family now.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Pam- As far as my unscientific research has shown, the German traditions left with the Germans. In my husband's hometown, the Germans left about Christmas time and the Polish people came about a month later. An older person in the family told a fascinating story about how they entered their \”new\” home to find a completely decorated Christmas tree long dead with needles on the floor. What a strange and surreal experience that must have been.Ewa-I wish you and your husband a very merry big apple Christmas! We wish you were here too! Somehow, when you have children, it will all just fall together. Each year you will start to introduce more and more of what you each want your children to experience from your traditions until you have created a holiday full of traditions that are distinctly \”yours\”. It's really great and something to look forward too. Take care!

  • Reply
    September 5, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    OMG you absolutely nailed it. Haha, yes lots of mayo in the veggie salad. Love your blog and it truly made my day today.(ps. I am Polish living in NYC)

  • Reply
    September 13, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Thanks Mariana C. We have adapted our Christmas meals a bit over the years. Despite the fact the we live in the carp capital of Poland, we have switched over to turkey at Christmas. Don't tell anyone! Thanks for reading!

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