(Click on the photos to enlarge).
Fredrik and I never eat Christmas Eve Dinner together. Why, you may ask. Well, Fredrik prefers Swedish Christmas food with his family and I prefer Polish Christmas food with my family :-) In the morning we eat breakfast together (te and gingerbread cookies) while we open our Christmas presents. Then we separate go to our families to celebrate with them. This year (or actually last year as it’s already January), thanks to our rather new mobile phones, we had video calls during the day in which we were able to see each other and our families. Fredrik’s grandmother who’s over 90 years old was thrilled over the video calls and had a lot of fun.
In Poland the Christmas Eve dinner, Wigilia, begins when the first star – Gwiazdka - appears on the sky. Normally this occur around 3-4 P.M. The dinner table has always an extra place set for an unexpected guest, which I think is a lovely custom. The table is set with a white tablecloth and under it there should be a thin layer of hay in memory of the Godchild in the manger. However in my family we have always omitted the hay for an unknown reason. Before the dinner starts we pray by the table and then we share Opłatek with each other. Opłatek is a Christmas wafer, very similiar to the altar bread in the Roman Catholic Church. The Opłatek that we share is stamped with beautiful ornaments and it is always sent from my dear aunt in Poland. Everybody takes a piece of the Opłatek and then breaks it with each person present while wishing each other health, love, happiness and other more personal wishes. I always have a hard time during this moment as I get very emotional.
The dinner then continues with the first dish, which is the beetroot soup Barszcz. On Christmas it is served clear without any pieces or vegetables. The soup is very hot and normally my brother Sebastian always does the very last seasoning before it is served. This year he celebrated Christmas with his parents-in-law, which means that we had to put the last touch ourselves but we managed well :-) The Barszcz is served with Uszki which means small ears. I guess that you can say that it’s a kind of small stuffed tortellini with mushrooms that my mother makes. This year, when I started eating the Barszcz and the uszka I just couldn’t stop smiling and my mother laughed at me. But it was so divine and I was really happy to eat it as we only eat it once a year.
Before I continue with describing the food I just want to mention that the Wigilia is a meatless dinner. Long time ago the Roman Catholic Church decided that meat on Christmas Eve was forbidden and that a strict fast should be observed. Nowadays the Church laws have been revised and permit meat on Wigilia but most of the families continue with the meatless dinner, my family would never dream of changing this old tradition.
After the Barszcz we continue with the Pierogi, my favourite dish. Pierogi is a kind of Ravioli or dumplings, stuffed with goodies. There are a lot of differents variants, but my favourite is the one with quark cheese and potatoes called Ruskie Pierogi (Russian Pierogi. Don’t ask me why they are called like that. I suspect that they don’t have anything to do with Russia at all). Luckily for me, the ones we eat for Christmas are always Ruskie Pierogi and also Pierogi z kapustą kiszoną i grzybami (Pierogi with sauerkraut and mushrooms). So know you know my favourites, Barszcz and Ruskie Pierogi, but there are other dishes as well. So let us continue.
Śledzie , pickled herring, is another great dish. This year we only had one kind of herring, Śledzie w śmietanie, which is pickled herring in cream or actually Crème Fraiche and onion. Earlier years we’ve had pickled herring in a kind of oil as well, but each year we tend to eat less food and it’s no use waisting it so nowadays we only prepare our absolute favourites. The Polish pickled herring differs from the Swedish one; there’s no sugar and the taste is much better even if I can appreciate the Swedish one as well.
Another typical Polish dish is Ćwikła, very finely grated beetroots with horseradish. Delicious and hot, perfect as accompaniment to other dishes. Then there’s also Chrzan, finely grated horseradish that we always get ready from Poland in some way. It’s really hot and perfect as a strong accompaniment just as the Ćwikła.
Another dish on the Christmas table is vegetable salad with potatoes, green peas, carrots, onion and mayonnaise. There’s also a salad with crayfish tails and eggs, among other things. And there’s also smoked salmon and fried fish. I didn’t take any photos of the “non-typical” Polish dishes as I wanted to place emphasis on the traditional Polish food.
As I wrote earlier, we don’t make as much food for Christmas as we used to do as we ended up with too much left-overs. When I was a young girl we, among other dishes, always had Carp - the traditional Polish Christmas fish. The Carp was bought alive (!) at Saluhallen by my mother and then we had it in the bath tub for a few days before the poor fish was killed by my father. Understandable, I wasn’t at home at the terrible points of time. And most important, I never ate the Carp. Never. This doesn’t mean that my parents were cold-murdered Carp killers. Buying an alive Carp and having it in your bath tub is a typical Polish tradition and everyone does it, or at least did it earlier. Luckily Carps are not allowed to be sold alive in Sweden anymore. The whole Polish Carp tradition is a big issue that has attracted attention among many, so read more about Polish people and their Christmas Carps here.
After dinner, it’s time for the Christmas presents. Just as last year I was announced Santa and had to wear a Santa cap while handing out all Christmas presents from under my mother’s white (!) Christmas tree. We had a great time and after a while we were enough hungry to start with the cakes and the coffee. Traditionally Polish people eat Sernik (Polish baked Cheesecake) and Makowiec (Poppy Seed cake) on special occasions, but otherwise also. This year my mother made a delicious Blueberry Cake while I did a Chocolate Cake and the Chocolate Oblivion Cake that I’ve blogged about earlier, originally from 101 Cookbooks. I also made an extra Chocolate Oblivion Cake for Fredrik’s family which they appreciated very much as their dessert had strangely disappeared. Actually the main ingredient for their dessert, Ris à la Malta ( a delicious kind of creamy rice pudding that you eat in Sweden as Christmas dessert), had disappeared so they were extra happy for the lovely Chocolade Cake which they ate instead.
I hope that you also had a wonderful Christmas with your dear ones. I had a lovely time and this year, after moving to Stockholm, the Wigilia will mean even more to me as I won’t be able to see my parents as often as today.
(Click on the photos to enlarge).