On Christmas Eve, 12 fasting dishes are served, symbolising 12 months or 12 apostles. Another frequently practised customized is to prepare an odd number of dishes. There could be 5, seven, 10 or perhaps eleven of them. Legend has it that the more differed the food, the greater the success that will befall the participants.
Historic accounts reveal that back in the day, especially in the countryside, Christmas Eve dinner, was prepared only from the fruit of earth: agricultural produce and fruit of the forest, rivers, ponds and lakes. This way, peasants admired Mother Earth. Meals including fish, thought about fasting by the Church, were at first eaten on the Christmas Eve mainly in fishing households and in manors and abbeys, generally in locations with own fish-breeding ponds, which were quite frequent in Poland.
With time, carp has actually become the most important fish meal on Christmas Eve in Poland. On Christmas Eve, they are typically served fried with grated horseradish or in jelly accompanied with veggies. Few individuals keep in mind that they also utilized to be served in a grey sauce, called the Polish sauce, prepared on the basis of fish blood and red wine.
A native Polish type, called the Zator carp, has particularly fragile meat. In 2011, the Polish Zator carp got the Protected Classification of Origin status signed up by the European Commission. The fish is raised in the Małopolskie Voivodeship, more particularly in three neighbouring communes: Zator and Przeciszów in the Oświęcimski Poviat, and Spytkowice in the Wadowicki Poviat.
Apart from carp, the standard Christmas Eve dinner in Poland needs to include borscht soup made from beetroot or mushrooms with ravioli-type dumplings with mushroom filling, pierogi with cabbage and mushrooms, along with salads and fish, including herrings prepared in various ways. Christmas desserts consist of poppy seed rolls, honey-cakes, shortcakes with almonds, nuts and raisins, as well as stewed apple, pear and plum compote. Kutia (wheat with poppy seeds and honey), in turn, is a antique of old rites in the honour of the deceased.
The joyful atmosphere would not be total without a Christmas tree. The tradition of embellishing Christmas trees came to Poland from Germany in the 18th century. Before that, people would hang the top of a fir, a pine or a spruce from the roof, and position a sheaf of corn in the corner. The tree indicated to protect your home and its residents from evil. The star that is frequently put at the top symbolises the Star of Bethlehem. Embellished with ornaments and other accessories, the Christmas tree typically stays in your home till Surprise (6 January).
On Christmas Eve and during the entire Christmas season, Poles sing carols: standard tunes about the birth of Christ. The oldest of them date back to the 15th century. The songs have been passed down from generation to generation. The most popular ones, such as ‘Wśród nocnej ciszy’ [‘ In the midst of night’s peaceful’], ‘Lulajże Jezuniu’ [‘ Sleep, Infant Jesus’] or ‘Bóg się rodzi’ [‘ God is being born’] stem from the turn of the 18th century and are still sung today.
After the banquet, at midnight, people go to church for the Midnight Mass commemorating the prayer of shepherds who waited for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.