Seeing as it’s nearing Christmas time and I haven’t done a blog post in a while, I thought I’d tell all you lovely readers what I do to celebrate the holiday and what it means to me.
Now I’m not a Christian so personally, the origin of Christmas holds no value to me; the holiday itself is an occasion during which my family and I carry out Polish traditions due to our Polish heritage, and I get to eat lots of delicious, homemade Polish food.
Polish Christmas technically starts on the 6th, which over there is known as Saint Nicholas’ day. On this day children are given small gifts from their parents, and this is generally regarded as the present giving day as opposed to on Christmas Day. Despite this we tend to do gifts on Christmas Eve along with our celebrations that I’ll explain in more detail later on.
Throughout December we go through with all the usual Christmas preparations such as putting up a bright, decorated tree; buying gifts to put under said tree; decorating the house with angels and small handmade decorations usually sent over from my grandparents and distant family; and planning Christmas dinner.
Now Christmas itself, as mentioned before, is celebrated on the 24th as with many European countries and on the day itself we don’t eat meat. The reason for this escapes me now, but as I’ve been doing this since I was a small child, I tend to keep it up purely for tradition’s sake.
The meal on the day consists of three courses, but before we start eating we say grace. Now as I mentioned, I am not Christian, and neither is any of my family who live in England so ‘grace’ is more a thanks for the food and everything that happened in the past year. We then break bread, which comes in the form of thin wafers (of which we only use half due to the fact that I eat the other half that’s send down – with permission of course). During the breaking of the bread we wish each other a happy Christmas and good fortune for the coming year.
The meal itself starts off with a starter consisting of ‘Barszcz’ – a clear beetroot broth made using chicken broth as a base – and ‘Uszki’ – small dumplings generally filled with wild mushrooms and cabbage.
The main course is traditionally carp (which for the days before is kept fresh in the bathtub), however we tend to use cod and trout. This is served with mashed potatoes and variations of Polish cabbage, including ‘Bigos’ – cabbage with sausage, onion, bacon and various other additions that can be changed (although the meat is substituted for mushrooms) – and simple steamed red cabbage. The mashed potatoes can also be replaced with ‘Kluski slaskie’ – round potato dumplings that are made by rolling a mashed potato and corn starch mixture into small balls and cooked until they float to the surface (very easy and yummy, would recommend!) – although this is not done very often as they are usually eaten with meats and gravy..
Dessert is served with tea and coffee, and in our house consists of ‘Makowiec’ – a moist poppy seed and bread dish that can be served with milk. We also have cake (due to the fact that we have a birthday on the same day), and various treats that are sent over from my birthday earlier on in the month.
After everyone is finished with dessert we all gather on the sofas and everyone is allowed one present to open, and then we simply sit around and banter/drink wine/whatever people want to do. Of course once it hits midnight I pull my puppy eyes and then open the rest of the gifts, and giving out gifts is one of my favourite parts of the occasion.
On Christmas day we celebrate as most British people do, with a turkey roast and gifts for the people who we share dinner with. However I always found the Christmas Eve celebrations to be more important to me, and this year I’ll finally be able to celebrate a proper Polish christmas with my grandparents from my mum’s side, which I’m very much looking forward to!
So that’s what I do to celebrate, and I hope that whatever you do, you enjoy just as much (and if you don’t celebrate, then have a nice day anyway, because you damn well deserve it!).