Meaningful Polish Christmas traditions are centered on a lovely blend of faith and family. Their celebrations begins on Christmas Eve. Here is a small slice of the life of one Polish family.

“I’m starving!”
“Oh, Iwan, stop complaining, twenty four hours is only a short fast that we must observe.”
“But, I’m hungry, Aneila.”
“It is only a little bit longer and the Wiglia(watchful vigil) will be over. Think of the feast we are going to have.”
“That’s all I have been thinking of, Aneila. Mama has been cooking and cleaning all day. It smells so good in here.”
“Come, Iwan, lets go watch for the Gwiazdka.” (little star, also a name for Christmas)

Bethlehem starThe Gwiazdka is the first star of the night. They watch for the star to remind them of the star in Bethlehem that guided the three kings. It signals an end of the fasting and a beginning of the celebration. All of the children want to be the first to cry out ,”The Star! The Star!” After it is spotted, there is a great greeting of all the relatives, who have come to the Polish Christmas celebration.

Many of the old Polish Christmas Traditions are still observed during the Wiglia Feast.
Mama has put the white tablecloth on, to symbolize the purity of Christ, and has spread hay under the table to remind everyone that Jesus was born in a manger. Because no one should be left alone at Christmas, she has also set an “extra” place at the table in case a stranger should arrive. After all, Mary and Joseph were turned away from several places, before the innkeeper had a place in the stable.
Papa leads the prayer and breaks the oplatek (unleavened wafer that is imprinted with the nativity scene).
The children are on their best behavior during dinner for they know that Baby Jesus will be putting gifts under the choinka (Christmas tree) while they are eating.

There is no meat served at dinner, but there are large amounts of good food. Beet soup generally starts the meal. Periogies stuffed with mushrooms, onions, and sauerkraut are served along with several kinds of fish. Jesiortr Preczony (sturgeon baked in sour cream) is a favorite served with poppy seed noodles. Fruit compote, prune dumplings and poppy seed cake finish off the meal.

After dinner, everyone leaves the table at the same time. Gifts are exchanged. They spend the rest of the evening gathered around the tree singing koledy (carols).The pasturka (Shepherds Mass or Midnight Mass) is the last of the Polish Christmas Traditions observed on Christmas Eve.

Christmas day is a rather quiet day spent with immediate family. Friends are visited over the next week

Christmas lights

For a Polish Christmas Traditions breakfast feast try this recipe:

Strucla (Christmas roll with poppy seeds)

8 cups flour
1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of warm milk

Filling:
1lb poppy seeds
1/2 lb nuts (I love pecans in mine) finely chopped
1/2 c melted butter
finely grated lemon rind
1/2 c chopped raisins
3 egg whites

Directions
Pour boiling water over the poppy seeds. After 10 minutes, drain them and let them dry overnight. This will soften the seeds.
you can then chop them in your blender in the morning and mix with the other filling ingredients. set aside
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm milk. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and eggs with the remaining milk. Then stir in the yeast mixture. Beat until elastic. Sprinkle top with a little flour and cover with a cloth. Let stand in a warm place until double in size. Punch down. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll out in a square shape. Cover each with 1/4 of the filling and roll tightly. Place them in two well greased pans leaving them enough room to double in bulk before baking.

After the rolls rise top them with melted butter and bake for 50-55 minutes at 55 degrees.
Top them with powered sugar when nearly cooled.

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