Poppy Seed Cake and Other Polish Christmas Eve Traditions
Christmas Eve – Wigilia – is the most solemnly celebrated holiday in Poland. On that day we have a very festive dinner, and there are many traditions connected with it.
One of them says we should start the dinner when the first star appears in the sky. Another, that we should have 12 dishes, and everybody should try each one. You can imagine how we feel at the end of the dinner even if we only sample the dishes! You can probably also imagine how much work preparing all these dishes involves. Luckily, because these dinners are, in general, big gatherings, each family contributes at least one meal, so the workload is not only on the hosts.
The list of traditional dishes that we can choose from and serve for Christmas Eve is very long. There is always a soup, either mushroom or clear borscht with little dumplings, tortellini style, called uszka (“pigs ears”). Pierogi (dumplings) with sauerkraut and mushrooms also always appear on our tables as well as fried carp, different types of herrings, and a poppy seed cake.
Although the dishes that we serve may vary slightly in different parts of Poland, the main ingredients that we use to prepare them are the staple. They include fish, mushrooms, sauerkraut, beets, nuts, dried fruits, honey and poppy seed. I will write more about the other ingredients on another occasion, but now I would like to focus on poppy seed.
Gluten Free Brownie Cheesecake Poppy Seed Cake – How to Combine Tradition with the Circumstances
For Christians, poppy appears as a symbol of Christianity and fertility. According to folk beliefs, dishes with poppy seeds were the most important on the Christmas Eve table. They were supposed to assure wealth while lack of them was able to bring disaster to the homestead. So no wonder that poppy seeds cakes or desserts always appear on our tables.
But for the vast majority of Polish people poppy seed is not only about tradition. I don’t know any single Pole who doesn’t like it! And makowiec – a roulade with a generous poppy seed stuffing (the more, the better!) – is probably on the top of the favourite Christmas Eve dishes. Some of us are even happy to skip the pastry part of that cake and have just the filling.
However, it is not the case in my family because my husband isn’t really keen on poppy seeds (he clearly is not Polish 😉). So, for him but not only, I have the alternative: Gluten Free Brownie Cheesecake Poppy Seed Cake. This way we have 2 delicious cakes in one plus the ingredient that is a must for Christmas Eve.