Why in Poland we have 12 dishes for Christmas Eve dinner?
The origin of the tradition, which is 12 dishes for Christmas Eve, is not entirely known. For many people the first association with the twelve dishes is the number of apostles, of whom there were also twelve.
In the past, seven dishes were prepared for Christmas Eve dinner, which symbolized the number of days per week. Seven also symbolizes perfection. This unwritten tradition was cultivated mainly in poor families who simply could not afford to prepare more dishes for Christmas Eve.
After some time, nine Christmas Eve dishes began to be put on the table, as many as there are angelic choirs.
Later, the number of dishes changed again and started to be twelve. That's the way it's been going to be today. For our ancestors, this number meant above all wealth, because not everyone could afford this number of dishes. Some also thought that 12 dishes should be prepared for Christmas Eve, because so many months are in a year.
The traditional meal should include dishes containing cabbage, mushrooms and fish, for example:
Red borscht (Barszcz z uszkami)
Best prepared on its own beet sourdough. Intense red and aromatic. It is most often served with ravioli (uszka) with sauerkraut and mushrooms stuffing or with mushrooms themselves. In some houses white peas and potatoes are added to traditional Christmas Eve borscht instead of ravioli.
Christmas mushroom/fish/almond soup
Among traditional Christmas Eve dishes, apart from borscht, there is usually another soup. In the southern regions it is usually mushroom soup. Fish soup is prepared in the north. In the east, almond soup with cinnamon, raisins and rice is often prepared.
Cabbage with peas and mushrooms
A traditional dish that cannot be missed on the Christmas table is cabbage with peas and mushrooms. Heated sauerkraut is a perfect match for forest mushrooms. You can find recipes that only include the addition of peas to the cabbage, without mushrooms. Cabbage with different types and colours of peas is currently being prepared. The choice of colourful seeds will surely add variety to a traditional dish. Cabbage with peas is often served as an addition to croquettes.
Cabbage with mushrooms
This meatless dish is popular in many regions of Poland. No wonder it's a universal snack. Its taste is determined by the selection of the right ingredients - so get high quality mushrooms (dried boletus) and sauerkraut. Spices such as marjoram, cumin, bay leaf or allspice will also be important.
Many people can't imagine a Christmas Eve dinner without croquettes. Serve alone or with cabbage and borscht to drink. According to tradition, the stuffing for croquettes is prepared without adding meat. The stuffing is usually made from mushrooms and cabbage. However, croquettes also taste great with groats or cottage cheese filling.
Wrapped in a cabbage leaf traditionally stuffed with rice and mushrooms and served with tomato or mushroom sauce. Buckwheat groats can also be used instead of rice to prepare the filling.
Dumplings/Pierogi with cabbage
Another of the classics at Christmas Eve dinner are dumplings. Housewives prepare them in various variants with the addition of mushrooms, groats, lentils. The dumplings can be varied by the way they are processed. Instead of just boiling them, you can fry them in a pan with a small amount of butter.
Traditionally one of the 12 dishes on Christmas Eve is fish. According to tradition, it is a carp. Mostly chopped into bells, coated and fried. A common addition to carp is sweet challah. However, frying is not the only way to prepare the carp. It can also be baked, stewed or served cold in jelly.
Among traditional Christmas dishes you can also find recipes for herring. It is popular especially in northern Poland. Nowadays, practically the whole nation tasted in Kashubian herring.
When choosing 12 Christmas Eve dishes, also remember about bigos. Some people claim that it is a dish that needs to be reheated several times, because such a procedure makes the individual flavors of the products merge into one. A note of dried plum should also be felt in the bigos.
Lazanki are made on the basis of a special pasta, which resembles a rhombus in its shape. Mushrooms, sour cabbage and a velvety thick sauce are added to the properly cooked one, then all the ingredients are fried in a pan.
When choosing 12 Christmas Eve dishes, remember about salads too. One of the most popular is the traditional vegetable Christmas salad. It consists mainly of cooked vegetables: carrot and celery. But should also include pickled cucumbers, canned apples and peas and hard-boiled eggs.
On the east Borderlands during Christmas Eve supper, kutia appears. Prepared on the basis of poppy, wheat, nuts and honey. Cold served is one of the sweet dessert proposals.
Noodles with poppy seeds
A very simple dessert made from pasta ribbons, poppy seeds and honey. Despite its simplicity, the dish is pleasantly sweet.
Compote from dried fruits
It has a characteristic and intense aroma and colour. Oranges and vanilla can be added to slightly soften its taste. The compote prepared mostly from dried apples and apricots will have a pleasant, light colour. In some regions of Poland, instead of, or next to, compote, a soup of dried fruit is also prepared.
Depending on the region and family traditions, the 12 dishes served on Christmas Eve may differ from those listed. Holiday customs and food are combined and changed, especially when family members come from different sides. During Christmas, the most important thing is to spend this special time together. Delicious dishes will make this special evening more pleasant.