Wow! What a week it has been! As you know I was born in Poland and like in most Central European countries, Christmas in Poland is a much beloved event. While German tradition of decorating the tree have spread all over the world, Polish customs remain more distinctive. I was always a Christmas freak mostly because of my beautiful Mum. Even after we moved to England, she kept all Polish traditions and always made sure the house was full of good food, old traditions, laughter, family and pure magic.
Over the past five years I didn’t have a chance to always be at home at this time of the year. While I was working as a flight attendant I quite often had to sacrifice weekends, holidays, family reunions including Christmas. So when I arrived to America, I was beyond excited for Christmas, because I knew that finally I will have the whole Christmas off. The only thing that wasn’t making me happy was the fact that I won’t get to have my Mum and the rest of my family. It is a tough one… After talking to my lovely friends I decided it is time for me to step up and do what normally my Mum would. I decided to take my heritage, my home, my traditions and throw a full on Polish Christmas Eve.
Polish Christmas Eve take place on the 24th of December. To many Poles including myself it is one of the most significant and family-oriented date in the calendar. Poles have so many beautiful traditions and I am incredibly grateful that my mum thought me the importance of those, because unfortunately these days people don’t really pay attention to them or they just can’t be bothered anymore.
My personal favourite is sharing OPLATEK. Oplatek is an unleavened wafer made of flour and water embossed with religious image. Every person attending Christmas Eve dinner gets one and then shares pieces of it with everyone else. Thats when we exchange good words and wishes. This magical moment always gets me emotional as not only you get to share something with another person but also you get to stop for a hot second and tell that other person why you love them and what you wish for them…and let’s be honest, we quite often get so busy that we forget to do these things on a daily basis.
12 meals! Yes! You got that right! Our Christmas Eve dinner consists of 12 meals.One for each month of the year. Poles believe you should try a little bit of every dish to secure good luck throughout the upcoming new year.
Classic Polish Christmas dishes include pierogi (dumplings) with cabbage and mushrooms, poppyseed cake known as makowiec, uszka with borscht (different shape dumplings with cabbage and mushrooms with a beetroot soup) or different types of fishes.
If you are hosting a dinner for let’s say 10 people you gonna set the table for 11. Poles leave an empty place set at the table in a case a person down on luck will show up at the doors and ask for a shelter. If that happens, Poles welcome that person in their homes like another family member.
We celebrate the first star appears in the sky before sitting down to eat on 24th December. The tradition commemorates the Star of Betlehem, which according to the New Testament guided the Wise Men to the birthplace of Christ.
Thinking of my favourite traditions I invited our close friends over for Christmas. I spent two days in the kitchen, trying to create traditional Polish dishes with American products and I kept on bugging my Mum over the phone for tips and advice. Muffin and I had to make over 2 hour trip to Anaheim to Polish supermarket just to get Oplatek to share, and God knows LA traffic can give you a serious road rage. We had to buy new, bigger dinning table and I had to decorate and set up a guest bedroom in less than two days. But hey all this hard work was worth it! Once Muffin got home from work, Marta and Darek got to Lancaster all the way from Santa Rosa I could feel Christmas.
On 24th of December we got up in the morning, we had a light breakfast, we put on some Christmas tunes and carols and the magic started. Me and Marta were jumping around the kitchen, singing and preparing the dinner. The boys were wrapping final presents and they chilled watching sports. Later on in the afternoon another friend arrived to our house. Ewelina came with her husband Patrick and brought even more Christmas magic with them. She quickly jumped in with us in the kitchen and started filling the table with delicious food. Once the dinner was ready and the first star appeared in the sky, we shared oplatek and started to eat.
After the biggest dinner of the year, we popped some champagne and wines, we put out all the deserts and we opened our Christmas presents. I’m not going to lie during the evening I had to stop for a minute and I ended up just starring at Muffin and our friends having fun. I was so proud… First time in my life I hosted Christmas Eve dinner and I can honestly say it was magical and exactly the same way my Mum would do it. Most of all I am proud that even across the globe far away from homeland, I managed to keep our Polish traditions. You know what they say, you can take Polish girl out of Poland, but you can’t take Poland out of Polish girl’s heart.
And how was your Christmas?