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    Day 17: The Symbolism Behind the 12 Dishes

    In Poland, the Christmas Eve table bears witness to a cherished tradition—laying out 12 meticulously crafted dishes. This age-old practice carries profound symbolism, reflecting both Christian beliefs and age-old folk customs.

    The Significance of 12

    The heart of this tradition lies in its symbolic representation. For many, it signifies the twelve apostles in Christian teachings. However, rooted in folk beliefs, it also mirrors the twelve months of the year. But there’s more; superstition interweaves with tradition, claiming that the days following Christmas Eve will mirror the year ahead. Hence, sampling each dish becomes a ritual, as forgoing one might mean forfeiting a corresponding pleasure in the upcoming year.

    The Ritual of Christmas Eve Dinner

    Christmas Eve, historically a day of fasting, restricts indulgence until the first star adorns the evening sky. It’s then that families and friends gather around the table, commencing the evening with prayers, sharing the symbolic wafer, expressing heartfelt wishes, and finally settling in to dine.

    The 12 Delicacies

    While regional variations exist, the repertoire of dishes for this occasion remains largely traditional. In the Silesian Voivodeship, a curated list of the 12 dishes boasts exclusivity to the Christmas festivities.

    However, beyond regional nuances, these dishes stand as ambassadors of a culinary heritage shared by many. Each dish carries its unique story, embodying the essence of tradition and the spirit of togetherness intrinsic to the holiday season.

    The magic of this cherished tradition lies not only in the flavoursome dishes themselves but also in the communal experience they facilitate. It’s a celebration steeped in history, faith, and the collective anticipation of what the coming year may hold.

    We have prepared a list of traditional 12 dishes in the Silesian Voivodeship ⤵️

    1. Compote from drought fruit

    By some loved, by others hated. Dried fruit compote is always served in salad bowls (never in glasses or cups) and only during Christmas Eve dinner. It is made from dried and smoked fruit like apples, pears, and plums. Some people also add raisins.

    2. Makówki

    Probably the most delicious dessert for Christmas. In many Silesian homes, it is impossible to imagine Christmas without a bowl with ‘makówki’. Similarly, to ‘moczka’, ‘makówki’ are prepared only during Christmas time. They are served sweet with dried fruit. Although the receipts often differ from one family to another, the foundation is always the same – the poppy!

    3. Moczka

    Moczka is made from gingerbread which must soak in lager. Then, sweet, canned pears and plums, strawberry compote and almonds are added. The preparation is quite easy but takes time. After the solemn Christmas dinner, ‘moczka’ is served for dessert.

    4. Soup from fish’ heads with crouton

    As the name itself indicated, this is a soup made from fish heads, usually carp. Although the cooking process does not look encouraging, its taste is incredibly delicious. It is served usually with croutons.

    5. Panczkraut 

    It is nothing else than potatoes with sauerkraut, well mixed and seasoned. It is worth pointing out that the ‘panczkraut’ is a very popular dish in Upper Silesia and is prepared not only during Christmas.

    6. Potatoes

    There is no need to describe potatoes. They are always served during Christmas Eve dinner. They fit all kinds of dishes prepared for this special day. 

    7. Red cabbage

    It can be said that red cabbage (modro kapusta in Silesia) is the quintessence of Silesian cuisine. Everyone in Poland knows that a traditional Silesian dinner consists of Silesian potato dumplings, a roulade and red cabbage. Therefore, red cabbage is also a must on the Silesian Christmas table. 

    8. Sauerkraut with mushrooms

    It is a traditional and domestic receipt for Christmas Eve dinner. Delicious mushroom sauerkraut is one of the Christmas Eve dishes that people await all year round. In many homes, it is compulsory to have it on the Christmas table.

    9. Fried carp

    People cannot imagine Christmas Eve without the classic carp. However, the younger generation is not keen on carp, so nowadays Poles buy it in symbolic quantities. This kind of fish is served as pan-fried or fried in the oven.

    10. Mushroom soup

    The dispute over the traditional Christmas Eve soup is still ongoing. For those who don’t like borscht, the traditional mushroom soup is the best.

    11. Borscht with ravioli

    There is no real Christmas without red borscht. Some serve it in cups, others in deep plates, but one thing is certain – this taste and aroma are known in every Polish home. There is also ravioli with cabbage and mushrooms to fulfil the taste.

    12. Siemieniotka

    It is a soup made from hemp seed. The hemp seeds are cooked and then separated from the shells. They are grounded into a paste and mixed with milk. It is served with kasha (called in Silesia the pagan kasha) or croutons.

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