Would it be the smell of multiple types of ginger breads? Would it be plenty of fresh powdery snow and evergreen Christmas trees all around or perhaps seeing fully ripe oranges falling out of wooden boxes stacked together at colorful Christmas Markets where you can also find handmade gifts and decorations, and not to forget the mulled wine! If these ideas are heart-warming for you, then visiting Poland in December is definitely a great idea! ALMOST EVERYONE HERE CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS and loves visiting Christmas Markets which add “a buzz” for beautifully decorated cities.
Although most of people prepare the main dishes for Christmas by themselves, it became very popular to search for “culinary news” at bountiful Christmas Markets and fairs and even to visit other cities to try their traditional foods and drinks to get inspired. IF YOU FIND YOURSELF AT ONE OF THOSE FAIRS OR YOU WILL BE INVITED TO POLISH WIGILIA (Wigilia is the traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner) you should be aware of few traditions that may help you enjoy both the food and atmosphere.
- Colorful glass ornaments at Christmas Market in Krakow, Poland
FIRS OF ALL, IN POLAND, WIGILIA IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CELEBRATION OF THE YEAR, and every preparation is focused on that evening. Many of the dishes are cooked specifically for this special day. CARP IN SAVORY JELLY (type of fish), BORSCHT (sour beetroot soup with small cabbage and mushroom dumplings), KUTIA (sweat meal made of wheat groats, poppy seed, honey and nuts) or BIGOS (stewed cabbage mixed with sauerkraut and wild mushrooms) – are truly prepared only once a year! SO, DO NOT MISS THEM WHILE VISITING CHRISTMAS MARKETS!
Although Christmas dishes vary a little bit depending on which part of Poland you are visiting, they are always meatless and almost all are based on: cabbage, mushrooms, root vegetables, dried fruit, and fish. Cakes and other sweets usually include poppy seeds, nuts and ground spices.
Interestingly, although Wigilia is usually reserved for the closest family, it’s customary to set an extra plate and seat for an unexpected guest, someone that may simply feel lonely during this time. It is also worth knowing, that traditionally most people watch for the first star to appear in the night sky before sitting down to eat, and start opening gifts only after the first meal (borscht) is served. BUT PROBABLY THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS TRADITION FOLLOWED IN POLAND IS BREAKING BREAD – OPLATEK – WITH EVERYONE AT THE WIGILIA’S TABLE AND WISHING EACH OTHER ALL THE BEST!
After you have tried all the dumplings, herring, hand-made noodles with poppy seed and ginger-breads YOU MAY WISH TO DO SOME EXERCISE! During winter not only visiting Christmas Markets is a good idea for a walk. If you visit the north of Poland (Gdynia, Sopot, Gdańsk or Kołobrzeg) you may enjoy walking alongside the Baltic Sea shore partially covered in ice, and always full of beautiful swans. In the East (for example in Białowieża), you may join a local group of nature-lovers and search of wild bison! Although quite big, they are friendly creatures when observed from a distance and much easier to find when snow covers the ground, so get your camera ready! Furthermore, every major city would have an ice skating ring and seasonal amusement park, but if you are really adventures you should go South! In Zakopane or Wisła you would find not only delicious regional food like smoked sheep cheese or Panczkraut (sauerkraut fried with mashed potatoes) but also great ski runs! In the southern mountainous region of Poland you may choose to either downhill ski or cross-country ski and you would find plenty of beautiful trails for hiking or sleigh riding!
- Christmas cookies baking class with Poland Culinary Vacations in Krakow
At last, you may set out to learn new skills during Christmastime and take culinary classes! Would you like to learn how to make Christmas pierogi – dumplings or bake traditional Christmas cookies? PLEASE CONTACT US AND WE CAN RECOMMEND SOME GREAT PLACES TO LEARN TRADITIONAL WAYS OF POLISH COOKING AND BAKING, OR YOU MAY SIMPLY JOIN US ON OUR “MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN POLAND” 10days/9nights tour – December 3 – 12, 2020! Please visit our website www.PolandCulinaryVacations.com for all 2020 trips on offer.
Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia! – Merry Christmas!