As much as I enjoy living in moderately warm year-round San Francisco, Christmas without snow just do not feel right to me. That's why I was very excited about going home for Christmas. However, this year was pretty warm in Poland too and till last moment it was not clear if we would have snow for Christmas or not. Luckily snow fell down just in time for Wigilia, a Christmas Eve "vigil" supper taking place on 24th of December. In Poland this supper is the beginning of three-day long celebrations mostly dedicated to family bonding.
According to our tradition, on evening of 24th, after the first star appears on the sky, family members (and occasionally friends) gather around the dinner table. There is always one extra set of dishes on the table in case a hungry stranger would knock on your door.
Before dinner starts each single person is given a piece of Christmas wafer, which is then exchanged - along with wishes - with other people present in the room. Dinner consists of 12 courses, which vary between different regions in Poland but usually include: breaded carp fillet, pierogi/dumplings with mushrooms and cabbage, barszcz/borscht, cabbage with mushrooms, dried fruit compote, sweet poppy seed dish. One should try each single dish present on the table as not doing it is said to bring bad luck in the new year.
After supper family members exchange gifts. Some families attend the traditional midnight mass/Shepherd's Mass (pasterka).
The next two days are also mostly food-and-family filled. At least in my family. We start our day with a breakfast, followed by a cake and coffee. Soon after that we eat lunch after which we again have coffee and cake. Then dinner time comes and the story repeats itself... I think you can easily imagine that after this food marathon I can hardly move. But I am not complaining, getting fat is a small price for all those wonderful moments with my family :)
Our Christmas Tree with presents:
My father, his wife and her grand-daughter:
Family dog, a 17-year old German Shepard called Max, did not speak in a human voice on Christmas Eve. Probably he had nothing to complain about: