In Poland, the most important holiday of the year is Christmas Eve. This day is celebrated with traditional food throughout 12 dishes. Guests should try a bit of each, and, Polish or not, sampling homemade goodies is something everyone can get behind. In my family, we don’t always follow this tradition to a tee (shhhh). While I keep it simple with heavenly cheese-stuffed pierogies, this is what the traditional 12-dish Polish Christmas Eve supper looks like. 

Red Borscht

beet, vegetable, beet root, pasture, radish, sweet
Katie Zizmor

This popular Polish soup gets its name and vibrant color from its main ingredient: beets. The soup includes sliced beets and tiny dumplings filled with fried onions. 

Mushroom Soup

mushroom, vegetable, parsley, garlic
Maria Arias

Yup, the traditional dinner consists of not one, but two, vegetable-based soups. This one is made from dried forest mushrooms that are big in Poland.

Christmas Eve Carp

Carp farming is a  popular tradition in Poland, so it's no surprise that this fish makes it to the Christmas dinner. Covered in lemon juice and herbs, this dish is served with veggies or baked potatoes. Personally, I choose to sit out on eating anything with eyes.

Carp Jewish Style

This fish is so popular that it's actually prepared a second way, in the Jewish style. This time, the fish is cooked in onion, almonds, and raisins


These little fish are popular in Poland and most of Eastern Europe at all times of year. For Christmas, they're served in sour cream with apples, dill, and chopped onions. While this dish is extremely popular, "It's a no from me." 


Polish or not, chances are you've had some variation of this dish in your lifetime. These little dumplings are traditionally filled with potato, sauerkraut, or mushrooms. Some sweeter variations include fruit, and my favorite—sweet farmer's cheese. 


This one is a big deal for the Polish. You can find it in almost any meal, and will absolutely smell it in any Polish home on Christmas Eve. 

Cabbage rolls 

This dish is cabbage stiffed with grains like wild rice and barley, cooked for hours in a vegetable-based sauce. Throughout the year, we make stuffed cabbage with a mix of pork and beef in a tomato sauce, kind of like a Polish meatball. 


This dessert is a combo of wheat grains, poppy seeds, honey, and dried fruits. Everything is soaked  in a small amount of port wine and mixed with various nuts.

Old Polish Gingerbread

This dough full of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves is made ahead of time so that the spices can fully flavor the fluffy cake-like bread. Poles also make tiny gingerbread cookies that they often decorate their trees with. 

Dried Fruit Compote

This  beverage is served at the end of Christmas Eve because it's said to speed up digestion. It's made from slow cooking fruits,  typically apples, pears, plums, raisins, and apricots.

Poppy Seed Cake 

Poppy seeds are a big deal for Poles on Christmas Eve, because this tiny seed symbolizes prosperity, especially in the coming new year. The traditional Christmas poppy seed cake consists of thin layers of dough  and thick layers of sweet poppy seed cream. 

Whether you are hosting, attending, or just learning about the traditional Polish Christmas Eve dinner this year, you're sure to come across some intriguing Eastern European dishes to try.