Christmas celebrations and rituals in Poland are most deeply rooted in old customs, hence people cherish them and pass down from generation to generation
For children, focus is of cause on presents, but for adults…well, they spend their holiday eating, visiting family and singing carols called kolędy (co-lén-dy)
Dining and opening presents can turn out to be an all-night affair
Main dishes include fish – most likely carp, herring in cream or oil, red beetroot soup with mushrooms and dumplings, pasta with poppy mass, or Kutia – a wheat pudding with poppy seed, honey, and nuts.
Although raw materials used to prepare Christmas Eve dishes are similar everywhere, the end-result allows individual regions of Poland to stand out.
Here we will focus on sweet pastries served in different regions, as this is what we are particularly interested in, and are masters of
Nearly all Polish regions have dishes with poppy seeds: dumplings, buns, cakes and puddings with poppy seed filling – eating at least a small portion was traditionally supposed to ensure prosperity for the entire upcoming year.
In Mazovia (Central Poland) homemade cakes dominate among sweets: Warsaw baked cheesecake, poppy seed cake and gingerbread are among most popular.
In Silesia (Southwestern part of Poland, near the Czech border) the delicacy is Moczka (pronounced “móch-ka”) – Christmas Eve gingerbread soup, which roots date back to the 19th century. It is unbelievably good (you must be adult!). You’ll see why once we reveal all ingredients: gingerbread, dry fruit, nuts, various spices, dark chocolate and… caramel beer or ale. A lot of it!
In Upper Silesia the real delicacy is śliszki (pronounced shlish-ki) – sweet dumplings stuffed with cottage cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon – regional dish included in the list of traditional products.
Yeast buns with poppy seed filling are also very popular.
Homemade Christmas pastries include yeast baba with nuts and raisins and Silesian Kołocz (có-loch)– Streuselkuchen, symbol of abundance. Known in English-speaking countries as crumb cake, Kołocz is made of yeast dough covered with a sweet crumb topping referred to as streusel.
The most popular Christmas Eve dish from Podlasie in the Northeastern part of Poland is Kutia – a ceremonial grain dish with sweet gravy, prepared from poppy seeds, wheat, nuts and honey.
Little animals are prepared from dough for children, and the most popular regional cake is, of course, gingerbread.
Another specialty in Northern Poland is cake with honey, grated sweet carrots, nuts and dried fruit.
Christmas cakes of Pomerania in north-central Poland are famous for the addition of rose jam – sweet floral condiment that adds a touch of delicacy and exquisiteness.
Southeastern Polish region of Małopolska is known for its medieval landmarks, wooden churches and beautiful mountainous landscape.
From the region’s Jewish history stems a local tradition of serving carp with slightly sweet challah, raisins, almonds and onion.
Braided loaf of eggy, shiny, slightly sweet bread called challah has a special importance, because it is known as a ceremonial bread.
Poppy seed cake is also very popular in this region at Christmas, although traditional yeast cake layered with jam and nut mass is favoured.
Everyone knows what gingerbread looks like, but if you want to try it in a wonderfully real, aromatic version, do it in Subcarpathia, a beautifully snowy mountains region in the East of Poland.
You will also find rose jam and spice sauce, two very strong references to regional flavour combinations.
One more “must try” dessert from this region – strudel. It is not only a matter of thin dough, but also of the Grey Reinette variety of cut apples that are perfectly baked, but retain their structure. There are also raisins and almonds inside. This strudel is a real star among strudels.
We hope you liked this short review of traditional Polish Christmas pastries and happily invite you to try some of them, as we bake several Polish products here in Ireland, at The Happy Family Bakery. They can be seen in the video below. Enjoy!
Our Poppy seed rolls, Challah, Cheesecakes, Ginger cake and many other products are available from Polonez, Lituanica, Mróz, Svaja, SamiSwoi and many other ethnic stores nationwide.
Happy Christmas, Family!