Ever year for the past 12 years I have looked forward to Wigilia. I was born an American, with very American holiday traditions. When I married into a wonderful Polish family, I discovered a whole new world of traditions!
Christmas Eve is the biggest and most holy religious holiday to the Polish Roman Catholics, and Wigilia, Christmas Eve supper, a most anticipated event. As a child, I was always interested in foreign cultures and traditions, so when I was invited to my first Wigilia, I was in for a wonderful surprise.
The evening begins with greeting loved ones while waiting for gwiazdka, the first star, to appear in the sky. This is when the festivities start. One member of the family reads a small verse from the bible, and a prayer is shared. Then we share the oplatek, breaking this traditional bread wafer and sharing our wishes and blessings for each other in the coming year. These are shared with smiles, joy, and tears of love.
The Wigilia supper table is an experience in its own right. Hay is usually placed on the tablecloth, recalling Jesus’ birth in a stable. An extra place setting is added in memory of those who are not able to join the family. Supper consists of 12 meatless dishes, usually starting with borscht & ‘little ears’ dumpling soup, and a bean soup. Other dishes include perogi, kapusta (cabbage), ryba (fish), golabki (stuffed cabbage), potatoes, and more recently, a few American dishes to represent our blended family traditions. The traditional beverage of Wiglia is dried fruit compote. Prunes, among other dried fruit, are soaked throughout the day. It’s very sweet, and a little earthy in flavor. I will admit, it took me a little to get used to, and my very first Wigilia I chose to drink water. Now I love it.
After dinner, our family gathers around choinka, the Christmas tree, and open gifts while listening to Polish Christmas carols. Right before midnight, we dress for the pasterka, the Shepard’s mass.
I hope to one day experience Wigilia in Poland. It is an amazingly beautiful and family centric tradition. It reminds me of what the holidays are really about; family, friends, and the celebration of life.
Many Blessings and Happy Holidays!
Join me for a little taste of Wigilia! Here’s a recipe for Vegetarian Golabki