My Polish Christmas Eve Dinner {With Recipes} - Polish Your Kitchen (2024)

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My Polish Christmas Eve Dinner

Hello My Dear Hungry Friends,

‘Tis the season again. Another year went by, again in a flash. It’s been over three years since we moved here to Poland and I can’t believe how hast the time is flying by. I’ve been busy with my the blog, video recipes and I’m still enjoying writing recipes and stories for you. I’ve been focusing my attention the book that will be coming out soon (stay tuned) but have to also mention the mini Christmas cookbook that I published a couple of years ago now: “Polish Your Kitchen; A book of memories; Christmas Edition.” In it, I share 30 recipes of dishes that we prepare and serve on and around Christmas, along with stories, customs and traditions of a typical Polish Christmas celebration. The recipes come from my blog, and the stories come from the heart. You can read some of them here and if you’d like to expand, the book is available on Amazon (link here).

For friends who joined my blog this year, welcome and thank you. For friends who continue to come back and stay connected, thanks for your continuous support. Please keep sharing pictures of food you make and enjoy. It brings a lot of joy knowing that someone is on the other side of my screen and listening.

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And now, I’m sharing the post from previous year about Polish Christmas. Happy reading!

Poles celebrate Christmas for 3 days, enough for the cheer to last us the next 12 months. Main meal in on Christmas Eve, and then there is 1st and 2nd Day of Christmas. THAT’S A LOT OF EATING!!

Let’s start with choinka (Christmas Tree). In my home, we normally decorated a day or two before Wigilia (Christmas Eve), and that’s pretty much standard for Poles.

Wigilia is the most important day of the holidays for my family, normally spent with close family, traditionally eating meatless dishes. Tradition of meatless Christmas Eve has changed a bit for me since I moved to the US and the rules on eating meat that day were loosened. We now eat “bigos” with meat in it, and sometimes the beet or mushroom soup is made based on a meat stock. Many Poles strictly stick to the tradition though and on Christmas Eve serve meatless dishes only.

Dinner starts when the first star shows up on the still pale blue sky. My brother and I were in charge of looking for it, when we were kids. Good way to keep us out of the kitchen, I guess. We were extra hungry by then, as we could only get away with sneaking cold pierogi the first couple of times.

Preparation for Christmas at my house starts early, and I’m not talking about shopping for gifts. Everybody knows that cabbage has to sour for bigos and pierogi for at least 10 days. As soon as I start cooking sour cabbage, my husband says it smells like Christmas. And I agree.

Christmas to me also smells like oranges. During the communist time in Poland, Christmas was the only time we would get oranges (if we were lucky). Not because we couldn’t buy them, but because there weren’t any available. We would get them in our gift bags under the tree, along with some sweets. My brother and I had to compare who got how many and how big, just to make sure it’s even and fair.

Dinner table is set with the special china and silverware saved for special occasions. Traditionally, there is always an additional place setting set for an unexpected guest. We also place a handful of hey under the white tablecloth, to symbolize the manger.

For my family Christmas Eve dinner starts with all family members sharing “opłatek” (a thin wafer, kind of like the one you get at communion) by everyone breaking a piece of the one you’re holding, eating it, and wishing each other Marry Christmas and other appropriate wishes for the upcoming year.

Then is the fun part… food!! Minimum of 12 dishes to represent the 12 Apostles (some parts of Poland its 13). These dishes vary just a bit from region to region, and home to home, but all include some of the favorites.

1 & 2 We start with beetroot soup with mushroom dumplings{barszcz z uszkami}.

Traditionally, it’s a meatless dish, with broth based on vegetables and dried wild mushrooms. It’s served with “uszka”, a small dumpling filled with wild mushroom filling. My version of barszcz has evolved a bit over the years, since getting real Polish wild mushrooms was challenging, and the strict rules on eating meat on Christmas Eve loosened. Many Poles still stick to the old tradition and continue with consuming meatless dishes only on Christmas Eve.

3. Wild mushroom soup {Zupa grzybowa}

Meatless soup made of wild mushrooms in light creamy broth is served as the 3rd dish of the evening.

4. Sauerkraut and wild mushroom pierogi {pierogi z kapustą i z grzybami} – my personal favorite.

5. Cabbage with yellow peas {Kapusta z grochem}

6. Fried Carp {Karp Wigilijny}

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This sweet water fish is largely sold around Christmas time and rarely eaten otherwise. It’s a specific tasting oily fish, lightly floured and pan fried ‘till golden brown.

7 & 8Herring in Sour Cream {Śledź w śmietanie}

A mixture of salted herring, shredded apple and onion, with sour cream, served over hot potatoes.

9. Sauerkraut and mushrooms

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Kapusta z Grzybami is a vegetarian version of bigos,by Poles oftencalled “bigos jarski”. It is prepared with both fresh cabbage and sauerkraut, dried wild mushrooms and fresh mushrooms and spices.

10. Fish in gelatin {Ryba w galarecie}

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Cooked white fish filet pieces, surrounded by cooked carrots and peas, suspended in savory gelatin.

11. “Greek” style fish {Ryba po grecku}

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This is a cold dish of battered and fried fish filets, surrounded by a mixture of shredded carrots, onions and spices.

12. Poppy seeds with dumplings {Kutia}

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Kutia is a sweet mixture of pasta-like dumplings, called łazanki [wah-zah-nkee], cooked poppy seeds, sweet honey and raisins. This special dish, in different regions of Poland may also be served with boiled wheat grain instead of dumplings. In my house however, it was always łazanki, and it just tastes the best this way (to me;))

13. Fruitcake {Ciasto z bakaliami}

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This is not your average fruitcake. It’s not dry and heavy, but instead soft, lightly sweet and studded with a balanced variety of dried fruit and nuts. It will completely bust the bad rep of mass-made fruitcake and convince you to keep this recipe in your box of favorite recipes.

14. Cheesecake {Sernik}

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Sernikis a simple dessert, made from farmer’s cheese and eggs with a few additions.

15. Poppyseed roll {Makowiec}

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Makowiecis “officially” referred to as “strucla makowa“. “Strucla” is a rolled yeast dough filled with a sweet filling of choice, poppyseed, sweet farmer’s cheese, almonds, apples or jam. Makowiec is mostly prepared for Christmas and Easter in Poland, but also enjoyed year-round as Poles have quite the sweet tooth for baked delicacies.

16. Dried fruit juice {Kompot z suszu}

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A drink made of dried apples, pears, and plums, spiced with cinnamon and cloves, served hot or cold.

That’s a lot of food!! There will most likely be more desert! Poppyseed cake “makowiec”, ginger bread cookies “pierniki” and my grandma’s shortbread cookies are just a few of my favorites. Those will have to wait until after the midnight mass.

We eat until we cannot eat anymore, and then opened gifts.

Many attend church that night for the midnight mass called Pasterka, to celebrate the birth of Jesus and sing kolędy (Christmas Carols). Kids love this part. They get to stay up extra late and watch the revealing of the Szopka (Nativity). Very exciting stuff.

Wigilia is preceded with, the 1st and 2nd Day of Christmas, normally spent with extended family, or friends eating, chatting, taking walks, and enjoying each other’s company. Meat dishes are added to the mix on 1st and 2nd day of Christmas. Each year we change it up and cook something else. Sometimes duck or a beef roast, depending on requests from the family. December 26th is a day when everyone gets sad, because all pierogi are gone. Each year I tell myself I’m going to make enough and not run out, but that’s never the case.

Merry Christmas to you all, my hungry friends. Wishing you memorable time spent with family, enjoying each other’s company, savoring and tasting, being happy and staying healthy. May the New Year of 2018 bring a fresh start, new inspirations, strength to be adventurous and good to each other.

With love,

Anna & Mark

ps. if you’d like to see us talk a little bit about our Polish Christmas, check out the video below.

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My Polish Christmas Eve Dinner {With Recipes} - Polish Your Kitchen (2024)


What is the traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner? ›

Fish provides the main dish of the Christmas Eve feast across Poland. There are variations of carp fillet, carp in aspic, gefilte fish (Jewish-style carp), sweet with onions, carrots, almonds and raisins. Accompaniments consist of cabbage, cooked red or sauerkraut with apple salad.

What is the Polish tradition of not eating meat on Christmas Eve? ›

In Poland, Christmas Eve is a day first of fasting, then of feasting. The Wigilia feast begins at the appearance of the first star. There is no red meat served but fish, usually carp. The supper, which includes many traditional dishes and desserts can sometimes last for over two hours.

What do Polish drink on Christmas Eve? ›

As a rule, Poles do not drink alcohol on Christmas Eve. A special compote is made of dried fruits, primarily plums and apricots.

What do the 12 dishes served at the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Poland represent? ›

There are 12 dishes to represent the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, the 12 months in a year, and also because the number is considered financially lucky in Polish culture. Calling it a feast may be misleading, though, because this isn't a typical dinner where everyone eats until they're full.

How can I make Christmas Eve special? ›

12 Old-School Christmas Eve Traditions We'll Never Give Up
  1. Setting the Table for Christmas Dinner.
  2. Attending a Church Service.
  3. Leaving Cookies and Milk for Santa.
  4. Reading The Night Before Christmas.
  5. Wearing Matching Pajamas.
  6. Singing Carols.
  7. Watching It's A Wonderful Life.
  8. Opening One Round of Gifts Early.
Nov 22, 2023

What do you put on a Christmas Eve buffet? ›

Best Dishes for an Easy Christmas Buffet
  1. 1/16. Ham and Cheese Board. ...
  2. 2/16. Cranberry-Orange Holiday Punch. ...
  3. 3/16. Chocolate-Dipped Chips. ...
  4. 4/16. Asparagus Tart. ...
  5. 5/16. Holiday Wreath Cheese Ball. ...
  6. 6/16. Whole Roasted Salmon. ...
  7. 7/16. Turkey with Stuffing. ...
  8. 8/16. Slow Cooker Pot Roast.
Feb 10, 2022

Do Polish people eat meat on Christmas Eve? ›

In fact, most traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinners are completely vegetarian! This is because, in the past, people would fast for religious reasons and could not eat meat during this time. Nowadays, many Poles still choose to forego meat on Christmas Eve as a way to honour their traditions.

Do Polish people eat fish on Christmas Eve? ›

In Poland, the dish is one of 12 in a Christmas Eve feast known as the Wigilia supper. The carp's role even extends beyond the dinner plate: In all three cultures, it's common for family members to keep the fish's scales in their wallets for good luck.

What can't you eat on Christmas Eve? ›

For a long time, Christians were supposed to refrain from eating meat until the midnight mass. It's no longer required by religious authorities to not eat meat on Christmas Eve, but the tradition has continued nonetheless.

What is the Polish wafer for Christmas Eve? ›

Polish Christmas Wafer: A Flavorless Tradition That's Oh So Sweet : The Salt Before Christmas Eve dinner, some families share the oplatek along with good wishes for each other. The tradition dates back hundreds of years: Back when bread was scarce, exchanging it with neighbors was a gesture of goodwill.

How often do Polish people eat kielbasa? ›

Typically sausages are eaten with sandwiches, but also are common as an ingredient in soups and stews. It depends, but many eat them almost everyday, usaully as a topping for open sandwiches.

Why do Polish people eat fish on Christmas Eve? ›

Christmas in Poland is a pescatarian's dream. In strict keeping with old Catholic tradition, Poles usually abstain from meat and hard liquor on Christmas Eve. However, wine and fish are acceptable, and the latter is abundantly featured in traditional dishes.

Do people eat Christmas dinner on Eve? ›

It depends on your family traditions. Some families all get together on Christmas Eve and do it then. Some on Christmas Day.

What is a traditional Christmas dinner menu? ›

Traditional Christmas foods are very similar to Thanksgiving and consists of roast turkey, turkey stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and pies such as apple or pumpkin. Other non-traditional main dish favorites are ham, roast beef or lasagna.

What is the most popular Christmas dinner item? ›

Overall the traditional Christmas dinner classic, the turkey, is far and away the winner for most popular festive food.


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