For Poles, Christmas Eve is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them.
Wigilia (vee-GEEL-yah), which literally means "vigil," or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus, is considered more important than Christmas Day itself.
Wigilia is a meatless meal because, years ago, Roman Catholics fasted for the four weeks of Advent, including Christmas Eve. In the past there were thirteen main dishes (representing the Apostles and Christ), but, these days, many families have replaced this tradition with a twelve-fruit compote for dessert.
The foods are to represent the four corners of the earth -- mushrooms from the forest, grain from the fields, fruit from the orchards, and fish from the lakes and sea.
Meals vary from family to family but usually include a special soup followed by many elegant fish preparations, vegetables, and pierogi.