We love to celebrate the different cultures our program brings together, and Christmas is one of the most important celebrations of the year in Poland, especially the Christmas Eve Dinner, or Wigilia. This is a time when family comes together to share a special meal full of traditions.
Dinner Begins with the First Star in the Sky
A favorite tradition among Polish children is watching for the first star in the sky, the gwiazdka or “little star,” a remembrance of the star of Bethlehem. Children wait and watch for the first star to appear in the sky, once it has appeared dinner can begin.
Family Members Break the Christmas Wafer or oplatek
The optalek is a thin wafer, shared and exchanged among family and neighbors. Before the meal can begin, each person breaks off a piece to eat and then shares it with family members who do the same.
Don’t Be Surprised to Find Hay on the Table
Hay may be found on, around or under the table, meant as a reminder that Jesus was born in a manger.
The 12 Dishes
Many people fast during the day in preparation for the Christmas feast. Dinner traditionally consists of twelve dishes and desserts, which can include:
- Mushroom Soup
- Cabbage Rolls
- Dried Fruit Compote
- Poppyseed Cake
Many of the dishes are unique to Christmas Eve, and are only prepared and eaten on this day. The borscht for example is a special variation, made with a sour base and often with small dumplings.