A Polish Christmas In Scandinavian Minnesota

December 9, 2015

Growing up in the middle of Scandinavian Minnesota, most of my friends celebrated Christmas with things like lefse, lutefisk, and lingonberry-flavored treats while at my house. It was something very different!

With a maiden name like Jankowski, it’s probably no surprise to learn that my father is 100-percent Polish and our house smelled of chicken barley soup, kielbasa, and sauerkraut every December 24. And I loved that our traditions were different from everyone else’s!

Christmas in Poland and for Polish-American families is primarily celebrated on Christmas Eve and starts with the sharing of the oplatek (pronounced “opwatek”) is the most ancient and beloved of all Polish Christmas traditions. Oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water, similar in taste to the hosts that are used for communion. The Christmas wafer is shared before wigilia, the Christmas Eve supper.

Prep for the traditional meal starts at least a week in advance at our house because it’s definitely no small task!

making pierogi

One Saturday in December, my mom, two sisters, my daughter, a Polish friend and I all get together to make pierogi – because seriously, homemade pierogi is absolutely THE BEST. You can buy them in the grocery store but why? We use my grandmother’s recipe and I look forward to making AND eating dozens every year.


Then, on Christmas Eve, my dad, my brothers, and sometimes I trek to Kramarczuk’s in Northeast Minneapolis for the most amazing fresh kielbasa and delicious poppy seed bread. If you’ve never been, it’s an experience! The part I love most is seeing the room packed with people who totally resemble my perfectly Polish dad.


Over the years some of our traditions have changed but these have stayed the same and I love it. This year is no different and I can’t wait to get covered in flour on December 19 when it all kicks off again with this year’s batch of pierogi!

I would love to know – how does your family celebrate the holidays?