In Poland there are two days of Christmas, December 25th and 26th, but the most important part of Polish Christmas is Christmas Eve - Wigilia. Wigilia supper, for which families and friends gather together, has a very special aura and sense of anticipation that is present the entire day.
Traditional Christmas Eve supper traditionally is meatless, as it is a day of fasting, with a large variety of fish dishes dominating the menu. There ought to be 12 dishes on the table that is covered with a white tablecloth, under which some small bits of hay should be spread in remembrance of the manger.
An extra setting at the table is always ready for any “lonely stranger.” Everybody is welcome at the Wigilia supper table regardless of religious affiliation or no affililiation at all. That supper is one of the great symbols of Polish hospitality.
With everyone at the table, the host, hostess, or senior at the table initiates the ceremonial breaking of the bread. That evening that bread is a traditional oplatek - a very special Christmas wafer. The oplatek is a symbol of love, friendship, and forgiveness. Guests break oplatek with each other and say their good wishes to each other, then sit at the table and start the supper. At the time of enjoying deserts, a singing of Polish kolędy (Christmas carols) takes place. Mostly they are quiet lullaby type or very dignified songs for the occasion.
Arizona Polish Club initiated that traditional celebration of Polish Wigilia for their members, friends, guests, and others who would like to participate in such an event. In order to not interfere with the personal commitments of APC members for the Christmas Holiday, we choose a particular day in late December that allows us all to be together and honor that old tradition that we love.
- by Alicja Mann
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