Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wigilia - Christmas Eve

Christmas would not feel the same without traditional Christmas Eve Dinner.
The most beautiful day of the year - Wigilia...
"Wigilia" means "awaiting time". It is a very special day for many of us. The closest one to my heart.
Traditionally, all of us gather together with the closest family and relatives.
There is a crisp white tablecloth on the table with some hay underneath. The hay reminds us of Jesus born in the stable in Bethlehem.
There is one extra plate for a poor stranger, late or unexpected guest - anyone who might knock to our door this evening... No one should feel lonely or forgotten...
While the kids are looking for the first star to appear in the sky, the moms are busy preparing dinner. One of the sweetest traditions that I cherish in my memories. First star symbolizes the Bethlehem star leading The Three Wise Men to the stable where Jesus was born.

With the first star in the sky, it's time to sit at the table... Everybody shares the Christmas wafer (white, thin bread) called "opłatek" - a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation. Sharing the Christmas wafer is accompanied by exchanging a blessing between one another.
Then, it's time to enjoy traditional, meatless dinner, consisting of twelve dishes that symbolize 12 Apostles and 12 months in the year. With our busy lifestyles, it seems challenging to prepare 12 dishes, but many people try to keep up with this tradition.
What's on the table?
There is always a soup: red borscht - "czerwony barszcz" (made of beets) with mini mushroom dumplings called "uszka" or mushroom soup - "zupa grzybowa". There is a big choice of fish - carp, cod fish, herrings prepared in various ways... And of course at least one dish consisting of sauerkraut and mushrooms, compote from dried fruit and a large selection of sweets.
Talking about sweets! The number one Christmas cake is, with no doubt, a poppy seed cake, known as "makowiec".
The dinner menu can be much larger than this, and will vary from home to home and region to region.
After an enjoyable meal, families sing Christmas carols and open presents.
Some people open gifts on Christmas Day, however at my home, we would open them on Christmas Eve. This beautiful night ends by attending "Pasterka" - a joyful midnight mass.
Wigilia is undoubtedly the most beautiful and magical FAMILY day in the whole year...

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