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RomanTimes



Joined: 02 Dec 2018
Replies: 11
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

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Post Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:38 pm      Post subject: Traditional Wigilia Foods
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I have a feeling this question is going to generate responses with a lot of variation, but I have to ask... 'tis the season!

FOODS
In my family we follow a tradition of a certain number of specific (meatless) foods on the table. I'm not sure if they were just traditional foods or if they held some specific meaning. I'm curious if anyone else is familiar with this and if they can list the foods.

EXTRA PLACE SETTING
We also always set an extra place setting on the table for "a traveler" or something like that (not sure if that relates to Mary & Joseph seeking a place). Is this familiar to anyone else?
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Aga Pawlus
PolishOrigins Team


Joined: 10 Mar 2013
Replies: 668
Location: Poland

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Post Posted: Mon Dec 17, 2018 7:28 am      Post subject:
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RomanTimes,

Yes, this is a typical Polish tradition, and although there are big regional differences, some rules are common:
- the number of dishes on the table is important an usually it use to be odd. In peasant houses, five or seven dishes were prepared; nobles had nine, and aristocrats 11 or 13. In rich houses they also used to prepare 12 dishes, and this tradition survived till today. This number refers to the number of the Apostles or number of the months of the year.
- all dishes should be without meat
- there is always a carp (less often some other fish) - as this is the symbol of Jesus and Christianity
- there should be some dishes with wild muschrooms: pierogi or cabbage with muschrooms, as they were supposed to have magical power
- the compote made from the dried fruits. Pears provide longevity, apples love and health, while dried plums drive off bad powers.
- there should be some dish with poppy seeds: cake, dumplings with poppy seeds or "kutia" - popular dessert prepared in the east of Poland. Poppy was supposed to bring rprosperity, but also it is a dish dedicated to our loved ones who passed away
- bread as a symbol of new life and prosperity, in Poland we are sharing opłatek (a wafer or bread that has been blessed by a priest) and wishing each other good health and happiness for the coming year
- other popular dishes are: herrings, cabbage, red borsch, different kins of pierogi or dumplings, beans

No matter what dishes are traditionally made in the family, but the most important is to try them all - at least one bite. Omitting some will bring you bad luck!

Extra place sitting: yes, this a very popular tradition in the whole Poland. It means readiness to take a lost, wanderer under our roof (obviously this refers to the holy family looking for a place for them in Bethleem), but it is also the expression of our solidarity with those who are poor, lonely and lost this night. This is also intended for our relatives, who passed away recently, or those who cannot be with us on that day.

On our blog there is an article about the Chrstmas Eve traditions: https://blog.polishorigins.com/christmas-eve-wigilia/
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RomanTimes



Joined: 02 Dec 2018
Replies: 11
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

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Post Posted: Thu Dec 20, 2018 12:09 am      Post subject: Traditional Wigilia Foods
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Dear Aga Pawlus -

Thank you so much for your reply to my post and the information. My great-grandparents on both sides immigrated to the US from Poland in the late 1800's. Information is so difficult to find, but I am so pleased that we still maintain most of the tradition you described. I believe we do have 12 dishes, we do pass the oplatek, and we do have the tradition of having some of everything (I am the one with ONE lima bean on my plate each year, haha). I am looking forward to sharing your information with my 83 yo mother (last of her generation) at the upcoming holiday, and look forward to checking out the blog.

-RomanTimes
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aleksanderz
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Joined: 21 Jul 2017
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Post Posted: Thu Dec 20, 2018 5:27 am      Post subject:
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Uh, I never manage to try all the dishes Smile
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