17 century in Poland had seen the change of medieval festivities into more solemn occasion. Nowadays mood of Polish Christmas, full of retrospective prayers and consideration for and celebration of life started to emerge from merry and full of fun medieval times.
Gone were the plays and jokes and in came visits to the church and family gatherings. Those were still full of happiness and merrymaking, only tempered with the solemnity of the moment and consideration for the Baby Jesus. Still kulig (sleigh party) was one of the biggest attractions for the neighbourhoods. But also more sedate carol singing was a widely spread custom
One would find a lot of preparation went into decorating of the houses and surroundings for the festivities. Handmade stars and chains mixed with holly and pine branches would span the ceilings and architraves.
Mistletoe was ever present part of the decorations too.
Food and drink were obviously the huge part of these preparations.
Home baked gingerbreads were served to all guests. Famous mead was prepared well in advance. So were the dishes. Mushrooms gathered in the autumn and dried for preservation were turned into stuffing for pierogi (dumplings) or various soups.
On the Christmas Eve servants would go to fetch fresh fish from frozen lakes (ice fishing). Meat was not permitted on that day, so all cooks were limited to use only vegetables and fruits (dried), extreme amount of spices and, of course, fish.
The menu was set for the whole country. It was a custom that is very much alive today, and though slimmed down by the years of austerity, some of those dishes are still present on Polish tables on Christmas Eve.
Almond with raisins
Beetroot soup with “uszka”, mushrooms and herring
Kutja – for the servants (barley dish)
Fish rings with horseradish
Pike in saffron
Pancakes with honey and poppy seeds
Perch with chopped eggs and oil