Blog: Christmas in Poland

As Christmas approaches Agnieszka, a Higher ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) student, shares with us how the festive season is celebrated in Poland

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Pierogi, a traditional Polish food

Christmas often seems to be so commercial, with Coca-Cola's glittering red truck on TV and the smell of tangerines and gingerbread in the Christmas markets, but it is still a big deal in my country, especially when it comes to food.

In Poland we eat Christmas Eve supper, in Polish called Wigilia (pronounced Vee-ghee-lee-uh), which consists of twelve dishes. This number has symbolic meaning, referring to the twelve months of the year and the twelve apostles.

There are many rules for our Christmas dinner. The most important is that the Christmas Eve meal should be a Lenten meal which means that eating meat is not allowed.

Fish is a popular main course, with carp being the usual fish of choice. My home was always different. My granny and mum cooked other types of fish that they had bought before Christmas from our local fishman. 

When it comes to fish, herring with onions and apples in a cream sauce is another typical Christmas dish, served as a starter. This is what we also ate at my home in Poland.

The Polish Christmas Eve supper is not complete without red borscht made of a sour base, in Polish known as 'zakwas', served with 'uszka,' small ravioli stuffed with forest mushrooms. The term 'uszka' literally means 'tiny ears' because of their shape. In many households, they are still handmade because for many people, who like to follow old traditions, buying ready-made, frozen ones would be considered a disgrace!

For those with a sweet tooth, Christmas Eve desserts are much anticipated! In my home, we always prepared 'kutia'. It is a sweet wheat and berry pudding with raisins, dried apricots, poppy seeds, milk and honey. This dessert is prepared only once a year for Wigilia.

As a rule, Poles do not drink alcohol on Christmas Eve. A special compote is made of dried fruits, primarily plums and apricots. This tastes quite unusual and is unpalatable for some; however, it somehow always seems tasty when eaten at Christmas.

Wigilia is very much a family event that brings together relatives from all corners of the country to one table: this is the best part in my view.

We have one Polish tradition in common with the British royal family: children always open their presents on Christmas Eve.