As everybody knows Saint Nick (Swiety Mikolaj) comes from the North Pole. Please see Santa's 'guests', who happened to be at His residence during Christmas in Polska Gwiazdka na Biegunach (in Polish) or Polish Christmas in Polar Regions (in English) -- A must see page :)

In Poland, an elaborate tradition called Wigilia is celebrated. Beginning on Christmas Eve, a strict 24-hour fast is observed which ends with a huge Christmas feast. In honor of the star of Bethlehem, the meal cannot begin until the first star of night appears. Though Christmas is Poland is officially known as 'Boze Narodzenie', it is most often referred to as 'Gwiazdka', which means "little star". Once the star appears, a special rice wafer blessed by the parish priest called 'oplatek', is broken into pieces and shared by all. Finally the meal can begin. The feast consists of twelve courses, one for each Apostle. The table is always set with one extra seat in case a stranger or the Holy Spirit should appear to share the meal.

Poland is accustomed to 'Twelve Dishes of Christmas' (like 'Twelve Days of Christmas', but it tastes better), i.e., there must be at least twelve dishes at that time served. You can imagine how healthy that meal must be ;) Even worse: you have to wait for the gifts 'till all the food disappears ;) At that evening everybody is welcome for the feast.

Christmas Eve mandatory dishes (varies from region to region):

  1. Christmas Eve 'oplatek'
  2. Christmas Eve Barszcz
  3. Fish soup
  4. Herring in oil
  5. Fish in Gelatin
  6. Carp in sour cream or Jewish-style
  7. Cooked sourkraut with peas or cooked sourkraut with dried mushrooms
  8. Bread (it made me already salivating) and butter
  9. Compote from dried fruits (best are prunes) /winter time, no fresh fruit/
  10. Poppy seed mixed with pasta plus other good stuff (raisins, almonds, nuts,...)
  11. Poppy seed cake
  12. Drinks: coffee, tea and other cold drinks; from alcohols: only dry white wine is appropriate

Here we present one of the mandatory holiday dishes (if you would like to donate the other recipes please e-mail them):

Christmas Eve Barszcz (Barszcz Wigilijny) recipe:


Cut up all vegetables except beets and mushrooms, which go in whole. Let simmer with bay leaf and peppercorns in 3 to 4 cups salted water for about an hour. Strain vegetables if desired, or serve in soup. In the latter case, cut mushrooms into strips and slice beets matchstick-thin. Return to pot. Combine stock with pickled beet liquid, and thicken with paste made of flour and butter, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Serve with Mushroom Pockets. Serves 6

Copyright © Marja Ochorowicz-Monatowa

Polish Homepages crew wishes you the best holidays ever