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Polish Christmas


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Polish Christmas

  1. 1. Christmas in Poland - according to the Polish tradition - how Poles celebrate this important holidays.Christmas is a very important moment for the Poles. It is often called thefamily day. It is celebrated liberally and according to the old tradition of thecountry. It is a spiritual and mythical celebration, and it always remains it,which is rather rare in our world of today, directed rather towards pureconsumption.Although Christmas is a religious festival, it is also a symbol. A symbol of newlife, a symbol of peace, conciliation, an exceptional time when all is possibleand when even the enemies have the chance to be put into agreement. It isabove all a whole symbol of the united family and diving in love and happiness.It is the time which gives the direction of safety, heat, mutual comprehension.It has its own environments, its own flavours, single and remain deeply in thehearts of people.Obviously, the habits vary a little in the different areas.The preparations with Christmas begin already a few weeks before, by theAdvent. It is the time of the waiting. It is rather rare to see people organizingsomething during this time, it is rather the time of silence during which peopleseek their serenity. It is not rare, even now, to see people who make sacrifices,such as for example: not to eat candies or to void drinking alcohol. One of thetraditions, as in other countries, it is to make cribs (the most famous Polishcribs (szopki) are those called "Cracovian" or of Cracow).The children often prepare their own decorations for the fir tree and the table.Christmas, is Boże Narodzenie (birth of God) in Polish, is also called in thePolish language "Gwiazdka", which wants to say in English "a small star" inthe exact translation of Polish.Christmas in Poland lasts 2 days: 25th and 26th December, but the mostimportant day is the day before Christmas, on December 24. It is Wigilia inPolish language is the equivalent of French Midnight supper. It is the daywhich, according to habits, decides chance and success for the New Year. It is
  2. 2. then very important to live this day in peace, good mood and good health, fullof energy, because that says that all the year will be good.Everyone rises early (not to be lazy all year!) and the last preparations start.When almost all work is made, the Christmas tree is decorated. In certainfamilies, it is done some time in advance. Some use the decorations bought inshops or home made. Some put also candies, cakes, which could be theneaten. The fir tree, according to the tradition, must remain until January 6.Obviously, under the fir tree, the gifts are or will be put, by Santa Claus who isgenerally called in Poland Swiety Mikolaj, that is to say in exact translation inEnglish Saint Nicolas. (Interesting: the festival of Saint Nicolas, on December6, is also celebrated in Poland as the day during which gifts are offered tochildren in priority!)Once the entire menu is ready to be served, the table is set. First of all, oneputs hay (or straw) on the table - that points out to us the origins of Jesus,born in a cattle shed. That must also enable us to have a good luck (for whichnothing misses) all the year. Then, the table with a white tablecloth is covered.It is obligatory to leave one free plate, for a visitor not awaited who couldcome, as in memory with those of the members of the family who cannot beany more with us. The menu generally contains 12 different dishes and doesnot contain meat because it is the day of deficiency - and the food of all thisday must be simple, without meat and without alcohol.In the same way, the menu of Christmas is also simple: especially the fish withcarp in several different dishes, mushrooms, vegetable and fruit. But in spite ofthe simplicity of the products, the receipts are often complicated and oftenrequire several hours of preparation, in which all family takes part in the tasks- each one wishes to be being useful and the preparations are most make anexceptional environment for the midnight supper. The men u is often a little differ ent in eacharea and varies according to families, but many of dishes are similar. Thussoups: barszcz, zurek or the soup with fish, the sauerkraut cooked with drypeas or dry mushrooms, pierogi - uszka (exact translation in English: smallears) is the ravioli with mushrooms, the ravioli with sauerkraut, the smallraviolis, carp (in different ways of preparation), the herring in vinegar or indifferent salads, the salads with the dry fruits, the kutia (the mixture of poppy,nut, honey, corn, grapes) useful with small simple cakes, the poppy, theeternal potatoes, different cakes - of which that with the poppy (which must
  3. 3. also bring back happiness all the year), as well as the gingerbread or smallhoney and gingerbreads, symbolizing the wealth of family all the year, thecakes with the grapes, nuts and with the dry fruits, hazel nuts symbolizing thesuccess, the fruits varied, of which apples symbolizing the beauty and goodhealth.The most important "dish" on the table it is the oplatek (unleavened bread, asfor the communion), because it is the symbol of division and conciliation.Resulting from the especially religious tradition (prepared in several formatsand dimensions, it presents scenes of the birth of the Jesus child), it is today asymbol of peace and love and that for all people, without taking into accounttheir religion. Even the politics meet before Christmas with "oplatek" to divideit between them and symbolically with all the Polish people. These meetings ofthe "oplatek" are also organized in certain companies, schools, clubs, etc. So,people who work together or who meet for different activities, express theirfriendship and the respect the ones for the others.It is a so important tradition, which those which cannot pass from Midnightsupper together exchange the oplatek by sending it by the post officeaccompanied by a postcard with the wishes - a very popular habit in Poland.But let us return to a family celebration on December 24 in the evening, whenthe first star appears on the sky the oldest of the family starts, he/she dividesthe oplatek and all members exchange wishes to each other. It is the mythicalmoment, when everyone forgives all the bad moments and promises to startagain a new life.Interesting: in old times, people shared also their oplatek with their animals.This tradition is always present in certain areas and certain families. And onesaid that this exceptional night, even the animals speak the human language.Then, people sit at the table (the old tradition said to sit according to the age)and the dinner starts. It is important at least to try all the dishes not to knowthe hunger the next year and to have a good luck. It is also preferable not torise and not to leave the table before the end of the dinner. This is why all thedishes are put on the table at the beginning to eat it so that everyone tries itand nobody gets up to serve the dishes one after the other.Once the dinner finished, one distributes presents and one continues theevening by singing Christmas songs (called in Polish "koledy" - which will be
  4. 4. still present in the everyday life during a few weeks). The evening generallyfinishes around midnight and the family can go to the midnight mass(pasterka), which in Poland is always at midnight. It is preferable not to clearthe table, but to leave it until the following day (for nothing to miss the nextyear).The 25th and 26th December, the Poles go to visit each other always in family,they gather at the table and consume all food so preciously prepared.
  5. 5. Some Christmas Eve dishes recipesBigos –Christmas CabbageAfter preparing the large Christmas Eve dinner, the lady of the house (and her staff if she wasfortunate to have them) needed to relax. Bigos was prepared to be served on the followingdays as it only needed reheating. There are many variations as there are homes, but thefollowing is the basic recipe, the ingredients listed provide 8 servings, adjust as needed.Basic ingredients  Pickled cabbage - 2 lbs (1kg)  Dried mushrooms - 2 oz. (50g) - (optional)  Onion  1 carrot  Vegetable oil- 4 tablespoons  flour - 1 tablespoon  freshly shredded pepper, salt and some sugarRinse mushrooms under current water,put them to thesouspan and pour1 glass of warm boiled water onthem. Leave it for several hours over night. The nextday boil the mushrooms in the same water about 20minutes. Strain the mushrooms keeping separately brew and mushrooms. Cut them into smallpieces.Drain pickled cabbage well, chop and put it in a heavy pot (preferably cast-iron or castaluminium .Next add the brew made from mushrooms to the cabbage. Cook, uncovered for 15minutes on medium heat, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 40 min untilcabbage is tenderPeel and clean thecarrot, rub off on a grater . Add grated carrots to cabbage 10 minutes beforethe end of cooking.Slice onion into small pieces and fry with two tablespoons of oil, warm up the remaining 2spoons of oil on the frying pan, add flour and heat it up stirring until the flour becomes lightbrown.Flour , onion and mushroom add to to the cooked cabbage. Mix it all and cook for a while. Addsome salt, pepper and sugar according to your taste.Pickled cabbage with beans – cooked pickled cabbage can be mixed with beans and servedduring Christmas Eve. Tastes even better when prepared some days in advance.Ingridients75 dag of pickled cabbage,6 spoons of butter or oil,3/4 glass of shelled beansl onion,freshly shredded pepper,salt.Place the bean in the boiling water and put away for a half anhour. Next drain the bean and put some fresh water .Bring toboiling on small fire, until it is quite soft. After that strain thebean through the sieve and mix it. Chop the cabbage and pour
  6. 6. with 2 glasses of boiling water make it come to boiling on small fire. When it is quite soft addthe bean and mix it together .Chop the onion, fry on the oil, and add to cabbage. Put some saltand pepper and mix it again.After that boil it and put away for a night in a cool place. Beforesou serve it boil on small fire, often stirring and alternatively add some seasoning as needed..It contains 100 g - 110 kcal.
  7. 7. Polish beetroot soup with dumplingsIngredients4 beetroots 1 carrot 2 sticks celery 1 largeonion 3 leaves cabbage 4 large driedmushrooms Dill to taste Splash of cidervinegar For the dumplings 2 dried mushrooms,soaked in a little hot water 100g plain flour,plus extra for dusting 1 egg, beaten 1 tbspwater 1 tbsp butter 4 fresh brown buttonmushrooms, chopped 1 large onion, chopped1 tbsp chopped dill 1 tbsp dried breadcrumbsMethod 1. For the soup: soak the dried mushroomsin a cup of hot water to soften for about halfan hour. Take out and chop fine (keep theliquid). Put the beetroot into a saucepan withthe carrot, celery, onion, cabbage, finelychopped mushroom pieces, and sprig of dill,and water to cover. Bring it to the boil andturn the heat off, leaving the lid on (do not liftthe lid up to peak inside!) and leave for anhour. While this is happening you can startmaking the dumplings.2. Dumplings: sift the flour into a bowl season with salt and pepper to taste. Make a well in thecenter and add the egg and water. Mix thoroughly, and then knead the dough until smooth.(Do this by hand so you can keep an eye on the texture; when you start to knead it can besticky but this goes away. If your dough gets sticky again you have over kneaded!) Wrap it incling film and set aside while you make the filling:3. Soak the mushrooms in a little water for half an hour. Take out and chop as finely as youcan (again keep the liquid). Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add thefresh mushrooms and onion and fry for about 3 minutes, stirring, until the onion begins tocolor. Add the rehydrated mushrooms and liquid; heat and cook, stirring until most of theliquid evaporates. Then stir in the dill and the breadcrumbs. Take off the heat and leave tocool. (At this point you can have a cup of tea!)4. Divide the dough into eight pieces; roll out each one thinly on a lightly flouredboard/surface. Cut the sheet of dough into 5cm squares. Do one square at a time: place ateaspoonful of the filling in the center, fold the square up and over it, to make a triangle andthen crimp the edges together. You should be looking at a large triangle now. The next step isto take the two corners of the longest inwards so that they overlap, and crimp them togethertoo. Set each one aside on a floured board while you make the rest.5. Take a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil. Gently add the dumplings, Turn theheat down to simmer, stirring gently (this is to stop them sticking). Bring the water back to theboil and simmer for about 3 minutes – the dumplings are ready when they float to the top.6. Strain the soup (discard the vegetables). Reheat the soup until hot, adding a tiny bit ofvinegar to taste (taste the soup first: you may decide not to add any). If you do add vinegar,the soup will have a sharp edge to it, without loosing the sweetness of the beetroot and willkeep that rich red color (lemon juice works as well).
  8. 8. Poppy Seed or Nut Roll8 cups flour1 pkg. dry yeast1 stick of butter or margarine melted5 eggs3/4 cup sugar1 tsp. salt2 cups of warm milkFilling:1 lb. poppy seed or ground nuts1 cup sugar1 1/2 sticks margarine or butter1 cup milk, hot1 lemon rindCombine all filling ingredients and beatwell.Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warmmilk. Combine the flour, sugar, salt andeggs. Add remainder of the milk, butter and yast mixture. Beat until elastic. Sprinkle top witha little flour and cover with a cloth. Let stand in a warm place until double in size. Punch down.Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Put on floured board and roll out into a rectangle. Spread coolfilling and sprinkle with raisins. Roll like a jelly roll. Place in greased pan and let stand to riseagain. Brush top with margarine or butter bake for 45-60 min in 350 degree oven.