2020 Virtual Festival Polish Holiday Traditions

December 20, 2020  |  2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Every culture brings its own rich traditions to holidays, and Poland is no exception. For our 2020 virtual festival, Polish Festival Seattle is delighted to celebrate Polish Christmas traditions passed down through generations.  We are featuring Wigilia, Christmas Eve, through a series of short videos brought to you through the generosity and creativity of our Seattle area Polish community members and friends. We hope you enjoy it and that we meet in person again soon! 

Note: After the debut on December 20, you can visit our YouTube page to view individual videos, including full segments of some that were edited for time for the 3+ hour program.

PROGRAM  (The below segments are not necessarily in order of appearance.)


Welcome messages


  • Story of Wigilia read by Caelan
  • Choinka (Christmas Tree) with Kasia
  • Wigila Table with Kasia


  • Watercolor Demonstration with Iza Gabrielson
  • Gather your watercolors and follow along, or just relax with your favorite beverage as local Polish watercolor artist and instructor, Iza Gabrielson, guides you through painting a cheery cardinal.
  • Pająki Ornament with Alisa
  • Watch the making of a “spiderweb” ornament made of straw.
  • Wycinanki Christmas Card with Wanda
  • Follow along with the creation of a Polish papercut Christmas card.
  • Polish Star / Porcupine Ornament with Alisa
  • See how this favorite Polish ornament is made.
  • Wycinanka Gwiazda with Alisa
  • Learn how to fold and cut a 16-sided Polish papercut star.

FOOD (Food demos will begin around 3:15 PM. Links to recipes will be added.)

  • Pierniczki with the girls!
  • Polish gingerbread cookies decorated with icing
  • Ambrosia Ice Cream with Adrian and Maja
  • Fruit, gelatin, whipped cream and chocolate sauce dessert
  • Shown by this brother and sister who learned from their grandmother in Poland.
  • Barszcz and Uszka with Ania
  • Beet soup with mushroom dumplings (“little ears”)
  • Ryba Po Grecku with Beata 
  • Cod layered under a root vegetable sauce with spices and seasonings (“fish in Greek”)
  • Makowiec by Daria
  • This poppy seed roll is a classic Polish dessert made as a loaf then sliced to serve.
  • Śledź pod Pierzynką with Dorota  
  • Polish layered herring salad (“herring under a feather blanket”)
  • Kompot with Dorota and Adrian
  • Polish compote is made with a variety of dried fruits and spices and served as a drink or over a dessert.
  • Kutia with Beata
  • Dessert made with wheat berries, poppy seeds, dried fruit, nuts and honey
  • Makiełki with Adam
  • Traditional dish made with poppy seeds, dried fruit, honey and noodles
  • Kapusta i Grzyby Pierogi with Ola
  • Cabbage and mushroom pierogi
  • Bigos with Wanda
  • “Hunter’s stew” recipes can vary widely but it is typically made with sauerkraut, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, bacon, kielbasa, fruit, vegetables, spices, wine, and any other meat the hunter brings home!
  • Ruski Pierogi with Kasia
  • Pierogi filled with potatoes and cheese
  • Miodowka with Jasiu, Nate and Piotr
  • Join these cousins in the mountains as they show you how they make their family holiday Polish liqueur recipe made with honey (miodowka), vodka and spices.
  • Szarlotka with Sebi’s Bistro
  • Learn how to make this popular “apple pie” cocktail with Santa before he heads off to the North Pole.
  • Apple Cranberry Cider with Kasia
  • Chopin with pianist Marzena Szlaga
  • Enjoy a little Polish Christmas song hidden in Chopin’s Scherzo.
  • Vivat Musica
  • Seattle’s Polish choir sings a medley of Polish Christmas songs.
  • Cicha Noc (Silent Night) with Knife in the Water
  • Festival friends and local jazz trio Paul Gabrielson on bass, Jeremy Bacon on piano, and Stefan Schatz on drums.
  • Jest Taki Dzien performed by HEY ZIUTA
  • Our Polish rock band neighbors to the north in Vancouver, BC! Check them out on Facebook! #HeyZiuta
  • Watch for additional messages and surprises throughout the event!


Wigilia (vee-GEE-lee-a) is traditionally a day of fasting and abstinence. Meal preparation is started early in the day. While the meal is being cooked, others decorate the Christmas tree and set the table. Hay is usually placed on or under the white tablecloth, recalling Christ’s humble birth in a stable. An extra place setting is added in memory of those who cannot join or for the stranger who may come to the door.

When the first star appears in the night sky, the meal can finally begin. A prayer is said, then all share the opłatek, a thin wafer made of flour and water. Sharing of the opłatek (pronounced opwatek) is the most ancient and beloved of all Polish Christmas traditions. The head of the household usually starts by breaking the wafer with their spouse, then continues with everyone at the table. Wishes for peace and prosperity are exchanged.  Even the animals are given a piece of opłatek on Christmas Eve. Legend has it that if animals eat opłatek on Christmas Eve, they will speak in human voices at midnight. But only those who are pure of spirit will be able to hear them.

Tradition calls for twelve dishes to be served during Wigilia. All are meatless and should be made from foods from the four corners of the earth: forest, sea, field, and orchard. Polish cooks over the centuries had to be very resourceful, working within these limitations. From this emerged a rich variety of recipes based on root vegetables, dried mushrooms and dried fruits, potatoes and cabbage, local fish, and flour-based pastries and dishes, such as kluski and pierogi. These recipes are lovingly prepared in kitchens all across Poland and around the world for this day. 

After the meal, all gather by the tree to exchange gifts and sing carols. Shortly before midnight, many families go to Midnight Mass. Called pasterka (Shepherds’ Mass) because when Jesus was born, only humble shepherds came to adore him and to spread the good news.


Polish Festival Seattle and the Seattle Polish Foundation thank the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture for their support of cultural programs in our community.