Given today is Christmas Eve, I thought it would be fitting to share with you my own family tradition of celebrating Wigilia. This is the “Christmas Eve” holiday celebrated in Poland, and has been a longstanding tradition in my parents’ household since I can remember. My deep-rooted Polish heritage is something I have always cherished, and I am blessed and honored to have such a unique European tradition that comforts me every December 24th.
Wigilia involves beautiful traditional customs, food, sharing, and love, and my mother embraces all of it to make sure we experience it all. Since food is always the best part of any celebration, we’ll start there. Some traditional Wigilia treats include:
- Borsch (beet soup) with mushroom uszka (small dumplings, translates to “ears” in Polish)
- Herring in oil and in sour cream (we usually serve this with crackers or bread)
- Noodles with poppyseeds (egg noodles mixed with a honey/poppyseed coating, served cold)
- Pierogi (dumplings filled with cabbage and mushrooms)
This tantalizing spread is shared only after the first star lights the evening sky to a table with one extra place setting to accommodate a passerby that may be in need of a warm meal. The dessert is my favorite part of any meal, and you can imagine this culture knows how to do dessert right! My favorites are poppyseed cake, which is similar to the American yule log, only made with a dry bread that is swirled with a sweet poppyseed filling. The other delight is a circular chocolate wafer cookie that can be cut and served in slices or eaten in bites, similar to an American Kit-Kat bar.
From the time I was a little girl to this very day, I think of Wigilia as a tradition that truly sets the tone for the holiday season. I encourage everyone to uphold your own cultural traditions, share them with family and friends, and always remember where you came from. Because, as the wise old saying goes, “You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”
Happy Holidays everyone!