Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia. This is how we say Merry Christmas in Polish. Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa. This is how we say Eat, drink and loosen your belt. For tomorrow is the Wigilia, a very important holiday for Poles.
Both Steve and I are Polish, but neither of us were raised in households observing Polish traditions. We do however still have older relatives who know the customs and language and we want to pass something along to our children. Together we decided to adopt the Wigilia. Last year was the first time and the kids loved it because they got to open presents on Christmas Eve.
The Wigila (pronounced Vi’gilja) starts as soon as the first star appears on December 24th. There are a lot of customs about hay and odd numbers and empty seats, but we’ve adopted what we can.
Once the kids see the first star we sit down for wieczerza wigilijna, the Christmas Dinner. There is a Polish saying “a guest in the home is God in the home,” so we invite our neighbors to join us. The picture above is from last year. The Wigila meal is usually meatless, but I made Golapki (pronounced Gawompki) because it is one of the dishes my Polish grandmother taught me to make. It is cabbage leaves stuffed with beef and rice. We also had pierogi, sauerkraut, borscht (beet soup), uszka (mushroom dumplings), sernik na zimno (like a cheesecake with fruit and jello on top). To drink we enjoy Oranzada with wodka which is really vodka with orange soda.
This year I am adding fish to be more traditional. I am also going to try to make Chrusciki, which is like little fried dough cookies. I’ve found a recipe for a Rose of Warsaw cocktail made from vodka, cherry liquor, orange liquor, and bitters. We don’t have the ingredients on hand but it will make the shopping list for next year. Of course we will make pierogi for our dinner. I learned to make these cheese and potato dumplings when I was really young and this year I hope to teach my daughter Sophie. Check back on Wigilia for a blog entry tutorial on making pierogi.
After dinner we will go to church. Good Poles would go to a midnight mass but we will attend the 6 pm family service at our Methodist Church. When we come home we will open the presents we gave to each other or received from other friends and family. In Polish tradition the kids pass out the presents. We will leave out cookies for Santa, but will also talk about Gwiazdka which means “the little star,” who is the Polish gift-giver. This relates back to the Wigilia theme of the star of Bethlehem.
However you celebrate, have a Merry Christmas!