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Christmas in Utica – Wigilia Tradition

Christmas in Utica NY for Polish families traditionally means a Wigilia meal.

Coming from Latin, the Polish word Wigilia is the name for Christmas Eve. The Latin word ‘vigilare” means await, like as in vigil, or an occasion for devotional watching.

Wigilia has several customs. In the evening when the first star is observed in the sky the Choinka “Christmas Tree” is lit and the Wigilia dinner is started.

Depending on where you brought up there are several opinions as to how many dishes should be served. Twelve dishes, one for each apostle seems common or an odd number like 5, 7 or 9, to represent good luck is another tradition. In either case the Wigilia meal is a meatless meal and usually always includes fish.

Traditionally the meal is started with a prayer and passing of the Opłatek (One Wafer), Opłatki (Several Wafers) or Christmas wafer along with blessings. Straw is placed under the tablecloth or in the corners of the room representing that Jesus was born in a manger.


Celebrating the tradition of hospitality in Poland an empty place setting is left for a stranger or unexpected guest.

The Wigilia meal consists of a variety of foods including pierogi, kluski with poppy seeds, pickled herring, kapusta, mushroom barszcz, and fruit compote. The fish could be cod, pike, trout, or other fish.

If you are looking for Wigilia Foods, Opłatki, and Christmas Eve Recipes stop by the Pulaski Meat Market and they will be glad to help you with your Christmas evening Wigilia dinner.

Pulaski Meat Market Utica, NY

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