An elaborate Polish Christmas tradition is “Wigilia,” a strict 24-hour fast that begins on Christmas Eve and ends with a huge Christmas feast. In honor of the star of Bethlehem, the meal cannot begin until the first star of night appears. Once it comes to view, a special rice wafer blessed by the parish priest called “oplatek,” is broken into pieces and shared by all. It is then that the meal can begin. 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. The feast consists of twelve courses, one for each Apostle. The table is always set with an extra seat in case a stranger or the Holy Spirit should appear to share the meal.
At supper’s end Father Christmas, known as The Star Man (often the parish priest in disguise), pays a visit to each home with rewards for all the good children. Koledy, or carols, are sung and presents are opened before the family heads off to the church for midnight mass. There are many carols sung in Poland and each region has its own. The most popular ones are "Wśród nocnej ciszy" (Within Nights Silence), "Bóg się rodzi" (God is Born), "Lulajże Jezuniu" (Sleep Baby Jesus) and "Dzisiaj w Betlejem" (Today in Bethlehem).
The days after Christmas are often spent with family and friends.
Filled Christmas CookieOpen Recipe
- 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
- 12 ounces (3 sticks) butter, softened
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 (14-ounce) cans fillings of choice (apricot, raspberry or almond)
- Confectioners' sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add flour 1 cup at a time and mix well. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at a couple of hours.least 1 hour.
Roll out dough 1/4-inch on a surface that has been dusted with sifted confectioners' sugar (not flour). Cut into 2-inch squares. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon filling on center of each square. Overlap opposite corners of dough to the center over filling. You have to work fast or the dough will stick.
Bake for 15 minutes or when corners start to brown. When completely cool dust with sifted confectioners' sugar.