I wanted to tell you a little about Polish Christmas traditions. I know Christmas is over, but so many times I wanted to share how it looks like in Poland, but I never got enough time. It is quite different from Irish traditions.
Anyway, the most important day for Polish is Christmas Eve (Wigilia). We gather in the evening for a supper. It should be about the time when the first star appears in the sky (or somewhere close to that as during the winter sky isn't always clear ;)). At the beginning the fragment about Christ birth is read from the Gospel of Matthew or Luke. Then we brake off the Christmas wafer (opłatek) and wish each other all the best. As a child I loved to eat the opłatek that left (ok I still do it, it's delicious).
The table should be covered with white tablecloth and underneath it is a hay. We leave an empty dish cover for unexpected guest.
Because Advent - the time waiting for Christmas use to be a time of Lent, so that's why at Wigilia there is no meat or any animal fats. We eat mostly fish and vegetables, typical dishes would be: beetroot soup (barszcz) with little dumplings (uszka), dried mushroom soup, cabbage with mushrooms, dumplings (pierogi) with cabbage and dried mushrooms or with dried mushrooms and a lot of fish, like fried carp (a carp is the most traditional fish for Wigilia), fish aspic, herrings in different kinds of marinates.
For a dessert there would be gingerbread, ginger cookies, or kutia (a dish from wheat, poppyseed, honey, dried fruits, walnuts and almonds). Everything during Wigilia is symbolic, poppyseed means wealth, fish - health. It supposed to be twelve dishes as there were twelve Apostles.
I must say Wigilia at my home never wasn't too strict. We never checked if there were exactly twelve dishes and my mum would allow to eat festive cakes, but we keep most of the tradition I wrote you about. My mum always makes tons of fried pierogi with dried mushrooms. Of course there is always too much food, but I start to think that what are Christmas about. This year we were here in Dublin, we spent Christmas Eve by ourselves and I really tried to make a reasonable amount of food, but somehow we ended up stuffed with food like usual.