Polish Christmas Eve Supper (Wigilia) Recipes

Jak będzie Wigilia, tak będzie caly rok.
-- "As is wigilia, so is the entire year," a Polish proverb.

Wigilia, literally meaning "vigil," is the main focus of Polish Christmas. This meatless Christmas Eve meal, also known as the Star Supper, doesn't begin until the first star appears in the sky. It's a magical time when it is believed animals can talk and humans can predict the future.

Not a morsel of food is eaten until every member of the family has broken the opłatek with...MORE each other and exchanged wishes for good health, long life, and prosperity. Opłatki are rectangular-shaped Communion-like wafers embossed with the nativity scene or other images.

  • 01 of 09

    Hors d'Oeuvres

    herring-rollmops.jpg
    Herriong Rollmops. © Jargen Wiesler / Getty Images

    Pickled or creamed herring, rolmopsy (rollmops, pictured here), smoked salmon, caviar, pickled beets, mushrooms and other vegetables are important components of the wigilia dinner.

    Today, most cooks, even in Poland, buy their herring already pickled.

  • 02 of 09

    Soup

    Polish Mushroom Soup
    Polish Mushroom Soup. © 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    After hors d'oeuvres, soup is served. It can be a sour mushroom noodle soup (zupa grzybowa z kluski), pictured here, or sour mushroom-barley soup. Both soups are soured either with kraut juice or sour cream.

    A red beet soup (barszcz) soured with either kwas, lemon juice or vinegar and brimming with boiled potatoes or mushroom-filled "little-ear" dumplings (​uszka), or almond soup (wigilijna zupa migdalowa) are served in some families.

  • 03 of 09

    Fish

    Fried White Fish
    Fried White Fish. © 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Freshwater fish, usually white fish, carp, lake perch, trout or pike, is always part of the dinner. It is served whole or filleted, breaded and fried, poached, baked, stewed or glazed with aspic, depending on family preferences.

    Years ago in Poland when fresh fish wasn't available, families would dine on pickled herring and hot boiled potatoes.

  • 04 of 09

    Cereals and Grains

    Polish Egg Twist - Chalka
    Polish Egg Twist - Chalka. © 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    In Poland, housewives save the finest wheat flour for breads and noodles for Christmas Eve. Depending on the region and preferences, that might mean paluszki (long, thin finger dumplings with poppy seeds) or noodles with poppy seeds known as kluski z makiem or noodles with stewed fruit or jam. Frequently, pierogi, with a mushroom-sauerkraut or savory cheese filling are served.

    Grains often eaten on Christmas Eve are barley, buckwheat groats, kasha, or boiled rice with browned butter, cinnamon,...MORE and sugar. Rice, mushrooms, and other vegetables also appear in meatless cabbage rolls.

    Most meals are accompanied by rye bread or chałka (pictured here), an egg twist bread. In Eastern Poland, a dish known as kutia, consisting of wheat berries, poppy seeds, honey, and nuts, is served.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Sauerkraut

    Split Peas, Sauerkraut and Cabbage
    Split Peas, Sauerkraut and Cabbage. © 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    No Polish Christmas Eve dinner would be complete without some type of sauerkraut dish, whether stuffed in pierogi or blended with split peas as in my family's favorite dish called kapusta z grochem (split peas and cabbage), pictured here.

  • 06 of 09

    Dried Fruit Compote

    Dried Fruit Compote
    Dried Fruit Compote. © Wael Hamdan / Getty Images

    Kompot, a dried-fruit compote ideally consisting of 12 dried fruits representing the apostles, is served as a "dessert before the dessert." In my family, only prunes were made into a compote, but any dried fruit -- apples, pears, raisins, blueberries, cherries, peaches, apricots -- can be used.

    For some families, a simple platter of apples, nuts in the shell, dried figs and dates suffices as dessert.

  • 07 of 09

    Polish Christmas Dessert Recipes

    Poppyseed Strudel - Makowiec
    Poppyseed Strudel - Makowiec. © 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Poppy seeds are considered a lucky food in Poland, so you will find them throughout the cuisine and especially on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

    Makowiec is a poppy seed roll (pictured here) or strudel that is wildly popular as are fruitcake (Cwibak or Chleb Wigilijny) and Royal Mazurek, among others.

  • 08 of 09

    Polish Christmas Cookie Recipes

    Kolaczki
    Kolaczki. © 2008 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

    It wouldn't be Christmas without kołaczki (pictured here), the flaky filled cookies many people are familiar with. But there are also gingerbread cookies, sandwich cookies, nut horns, sugar cookies, almost too many to choose from!

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Beverages

    Bottle of Polish Krupnik or Honeyed Vodka
    Bottle of Polish Krupnik or Honeyed Vodka. Flickr by dan1529

    Fruit juices, strong coffee, and tea are the beverages of choice. Christmas Eve is considered too solemn an occasion to engage in much tippling, but a sip of krupnik is almost a requirement!

    This honey-spiced vodka can be served hot or cold, but the serving temperature has nothing to do with its ability to warm a person from the inside out, and the aroma is heavenly. It can be purchased premade (pictured here) but, as is the case with most things, it tastes so much better homemade.

    Some families...MORE might have a sip of fruit-flavored cordials (nalewki) made with summer's bounty.