Underneath the 17th door of the Meery Christmas Advent Calendar lies a fish, and this symbolises one of the traditional Christmas dishes of Poland.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about Polish Christmas food. Well, some of my neighbours are Polish, and they have spoken of Polish Christmas foods, so I thought I would explore what a classic Polish Christmas meal looks like.
One of the first things to note is that the main Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is also the day presents are exchanged, with Christmas Day being a more sedate, less hectic affair. On Christmas Eve it is traditional to wait until the first star appears in the sky before eating, and there are usually 12 dishes (representing the 12 apostles, and the 12 months of the year). The occasion is meat-free, which could be considered quite unusual for a country where sausages in particular are widely enjoyed. I’m not going to go through all 12 courses here (check out this site if you want to know more), but I’ll run through a handful of them.
The first course is a wafer, known as an opłatek, which is similar to the wafers found at the altars of Catholic Churches. This is often embossed with religious figures, shared before being seated, and wishes for good fortune are exchanged among family members at the same time.
There are a number of soups served during a Polish Christmas dinner, including a fish soup, and fish is the centrepiece of the whole affair. One of the options is fried carp, and this is interesting for a couple of reasons. Carp is regarded as a national dish of Poland, yet it is only served on Christmas Eve, and carp is normally considered to be inedible, yet in Poland it has been bred under special conditions. An alternative to carp is Ryba po grecku, a fried white fish, coated in grated carrots and other root vegetables, and served in a thick sauce, based in tomato paste.
A popular finale is gingerbread, which will receive no complaints from me! There are many more dishes, and most of them sound amazing. Dinner at the neighbours one year?