I love being able to experience the same celebrations, but with different cultures. It let’s me see inside another world that I may not be exposed to otherwise. For Christmas Eve this year, I was fortunate enough to do it Polish style. I am told that traditionally, dinner starts once the first star appears in the sky. I didn’t actually look up, but apparently that meant around 5ish. Then, a prayer is done and a large, rectangular wafer with various religious pictures on it (the host) is shared amongst the group. Everybody gives their blessings and wishes to each other for a future of prosperity, happiness, etc. before dinner commences.
Since many Polish are supposed to fast the night before, you can tell everyone is anticipating on eating their first bite of food for the day. It’s a multi-course meal, so the first dish we ate was something called uszka. These are “little eared” dumplings filled with mushrooms and onions. They are swimming around in a soup called barszcz, which is basically the Polish way of saying borscht or beet soup. It’s a really great soup and dumpling combo. I could have eaten a whole bowl full of uszka i barszcz, but I knew there was more to come.
The next dish was also a soup, but it was made with a mushroom base. The Polish culture use a lot of mushrooms in their dishes (they even have a cream sauce that they put on meats and other dishes). This soup is called zupa grzybowa, which translates as mushroom soup. It has white pieces of pasta in it and has a nice earthy taste and homely feel to it. It’s a clear broth soup and is something I get to periodically eat throughout the year as well, but I welcome this tasty soup anytime!
The next dish was the main entrée. There were several components to this, including simple boiled broccoli, deep fried fish, mashed potatoes and soured cabbage with beans. Being a day where they normally abstain from eating meat, they eat fish instead. And potatoes, I would like to say is their main starch/vegetable.
We finished off the meal with a sweet pierogie. This one is a bit different from your typical dessert pierogie. Other than being filled with a sweet, cottage cheese mixture, one lucky guest gets a coin which denotes good fortune for the new year.
Normally it is only one person that gets a coin, but this time everybody got some form of a coin (a loonie or $1) whereas the “big winner” got a toonie ($2 coin).
And of course, following the meal is more platters of delicious desserts consisting of cakes, cookies and pastries. The Polish also like to follow their meals with a deli platter with various cheese, meats and breads (I think it’s ok to eat meat after a certain time on Christmas Eve). I am told it is tradition to have eight different dishes on the table for Christmas Eve, but I think we were off by a few. Well, there’s always next year! What do you eat for Christmas Eve dinner?
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!