Since eating pierogi is such a tradition during the Christmas holidays, below you can find a few ways to serve pierogi at any dinner party or event, along with lots of Polish Christmas recipes. Or, you may decide to do a traditional Polish Christmas dinner with the full Wigilia Feast. Here, no Polish Christmas recipe will contain meat--it is a a way to remember that one must always give something up in the goal of gaining. According to religious tradition, the Poles even try to avoid using animal fats in the cooking for their Christmas Eve meal.
About The Polish Christmas Eve Meal: The Wigilia Feast
The Wigilia meal is made from foods that come from the four corners of the earth: forest, sea, field, and orchard. This is why you will see such a rich variety of recipes based on root vegetables, dried mushrooms from the forest, fruit from the orchard, fish from the sea, and pierogi from flour from the field. To start the Polish Christmas Eve meal, friends, family, and neighbors will gather around the table for the unique Polish ceremony--the breaking of bread--as a symbol of love, friendship, and forgiveness. They typically use a white, transparent communion wafer called oplatek. Centuries ago, feudal-estate masters would forget the feudal order by inviting the servants to join them in this emotional dinner celebration -- uniting friends, enemies, the sick, poor, and lonely. To honor this Polish Christmas tradition, make sure you don't forget to add an extra place on the table for the lonely traveler who may knock on the door or for loved ones who are far away but may want to join their families in spirit.
After the breaking of bread, many Poles celebrate Christmas Eve by starting the Wigilia meal with warming beet root (beet) or sweet almond soup, as well as some dishes using vegetables from the field such as sauerkraut, stuffed kohlrabi, and potatoes. The main dish is usually whole carp or pike and a steaming platter of sauerkraut and meatless pierogies. The meal ends with dried fruit compote and honey cookies or a poppy seed roll. Poppy seeds are always included as a symbol of peaceful sleep, and honey for sweetness and contentment. In the United States, it can be difficult to find fresh carp or pike, so substitutes are more common. In either country, a Polish Christmas will always have a seemingly endless array of appetizers, garnishes, and accompaniments. Traditionally the Wigilia meal featured 12 dishes (representing the 12 apostles), but today the number of dishes is typically determined by the number of guests.
A Polish Christmas Eve Dinner may include some of the following:
We have provided links to the as many of these items as possible either on our site or from other Polish Christmas sites that had interesting recipes to try. Note that some of these recipes can be made more traditional by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth so they are 100% meatless.
Our specialty, of course, would be how you serve the pierogi. In Tomek's family, they always served Cabbage Mushroom pierogi since it had no meat or eggs and these would be boiled and topped with caramelized onions. For Christmas Day, Potato and Farmer's cheese pierogi was enjoyed, topped with caramelized onions and bacon and dipped in sour cream. If you happen to be doing a party, you can also get creative and even serve pierogi wrapped in bacon, although this is less traditional. Wesolych Swiat (Merry Christmas) to all!
Have Yourself a Happy Pierogi Christmas!