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Christmas food and traditions

Traditions abound at Christmas time, whether they’re simple, such as our beloved Kiwi pavlova AND a trifle groaning with cream or maybe it’s an afternoon, sweaty, no-holds-barred, swing-ball family challenge. Often it’s the one time of year that gluttony is permissible and in some homes the traditional norm might be an afternoon family snooze, where every bit of sofa space is filled to capacity.

But it’s those traditions that provide opportunities for gratefulness that really pull on the heart-strings. Those in the USA have a day specifically for this, their Thanksgiving Day, where before the meal starts they share what they give thanks for.

Polish families in New Zealand celebrate on Christmas Eve, it’s called Wigilia (pronounced viˈɡilia) and it’s the most beloved and beautiful of all Polish traditional festivities. There are so many traditions during Wigilia, however, the one that stands out is Opłatek. This is a Holy unleavened wafer that everyone attending receives before sitting down to the meal. With this wafer, you share a heartfelt message with each and everyone in the room. Each time you break off a piece of each other’s wafer to eat, you acknowledge them personally, by noting their achievements throughout the year, saying why they are so special to you and wishing them well for the year ahead. There’s usually not a dry eye in the house by the time everyone is finished and non-Polish guests attending always comment that this is their favourite part of the traditions shared.

Agnes M. Pahro sums up the Opłatek tradition perfectly when she said – What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.

Another tradition of Wigilia is an extra place is always set at the table for the unexpected guest, because no one should be alone over Christmas. Like mental health, loneliness is often a taboo subject and Christmas is often a time where people can feel very socially isolated. Those of us who are blessed with family, friends or partners need to be mindful of friends, neighbours and family who spend too much time alone. Christmas is a time to reach out and look out for others and invite them along to fill that empty seat at the table. It could be that those invited guests will bring some of their own Christmas or holiday traditions to the festivities.

The kids may beg to differ, but Christmas is not all about the presents, it’s not even about the food, it’s about time spent with family and friends.

But on the topic of food, and of course you knew we’d be going there, last December we conducted a fun survey to see what traditional favourite proteins New Zealanders’ preferred for Christmas lunch. Unsurprisingly ham and our New Zealand grass-fed lamb came up trumps. So we’ve collated some of our favourite lamb recipes to keep that Kiwi tradition alive – we’ve got starters and food to feed a crowd covered. Enjoy and Meri Kirihimete or as us Poles say Wesołych Świąt.

My Favourite Christmas Recipes

Posted by Regina Wypych

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