So, I’m a bit rusty on all of this. I haven’t really celebrated as traditionally as I’d like to because my mom was the one who knew how to do everything. So gathering what I know. I’ll go ahead and explain what a traditional Polish/American Christmas always was to us.
Christmas Eve (Wigilia) was always more important to my parents. We didn’t know the whole ‘Santa comes Christmas Day morning’. We didn’t have much but we always spent Eve together.
I remember mom decorating everywhere, and setting the table with all of her fine china. The tree close by.
We always put on Polish Christmas Carols too. Could be found on Youtube now that cassette players are gone.
Before dinner everyone gathers around the table and we have a specific ritual. We purchase an Oplatek, also known as a Christmas Wafer. It’s the Eucharist made specifically for in home private use, representing the body of Christ. The head of the household and oldest member, breaks off a large piece of the wafer, the remaining is passed off to other members of the family and friends, as each person breaks off the others wafer, they pray for one another and give well wishes to each other for the coming New Year. It’s a Polish tradition that has been going on since the 10th century. After everyone has consumed and has partook in the passing of the Eucharist, dinner begins.You can get them in most Catholic churches and Polish stores.
And during Eve we would have the specific menu. Red Barsz or Borscht. Which would basically be a beet stew. More potatoes and veggies could be added to it, but we just kept it simple with just a broth. We would then add either hard boiled egg to it, or tortellini. Christmas Eve is also meatless for us. So we would normally bake, marinate or fry a variety of fish, have potatoes and gravy, as well as some sauerkraut, glazed carrots and not to forget, PIEROGIS. Potato and cheese, onion and cheese, sauerkraut and mushroom (are my favorite). This part is really special to us now because my mom never taught us how to make the dough for pierogis, it was always hit or miss, but Joanna (my sister) and I finally found it out, and now we don’t have to be robbed $7.99 per 12ct package from local stores. Besides- making them together is what it’s all about.
For the adults… dinner usually ends with wine or a big bottle of vodka, and story telling.
My mother was never really good at keeping us kids away from the presents, so while the adults did their thing, we opened ours.
Here’s a basic run down of some of our foods that I found online for Wigilia.