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A twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper is traditionally prepared in many Central European and Northern European cultures, especially those that were formerly part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian.
Many modern age descendants of immigrants from those areas who settled in the Coal Region embrace some, or all, of their heritage’s Christmas Eve and Day customs. The meal usually consists of twelve meatless dishes representing the twelve months of the year (and perhaps in more recent times, the 12 Apostles). The tradition of the supper can be traced back to pre-Christian times and connected with remembrance of the souls of deceased ancestors.
Fish, mushrooms, pierogies with assorted fillings and sweets in some cuisines are part of the meal. The Christmas Eve supper is usually held under candlelight and starts in the evening after the first star appears in the sky. The star symbolizes the birth of Jesus in Christian tradition and a soul of deceased ancestors in pre-Christian beliefs.
In Poland, Russia and Ukraine an extra plate and seat are always left at the table in the belief the spirits of the departed members of the family visit on the night. It is also very customary to be even more hospitable and invite unexpected visitors to the supper.
This soup is often found on the table for Christmas Eve and is a meatless version because in many of these households, Christmas Eve is a fast day and no meat is consumed (In Ukraine, for example, some people abstain from eating all-together for the whole day, until the first star appears, when a 12 course meatless meal is served for the whole family, to break the fast.).
To serve this at any time when it is not necessary to be meatless, use chicken or beef broth as the base. (Source of historical information: Wikipedia)
Meatless Borscht (Red Beet Soup)Course: SoupsCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
This soup is often found on the table for Christmas Eve and is a meatless version because in many of these households, Christmas Eve is a fast day and no meat is consumed.
6 cups boiling water, or vegetable soup stock
2 medium red beats, peeled and shredded
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
2 Tablespoons white vinegar, or lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Savoy cabbage, shredded
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 whole onion
1 whole bay leaf
10 whole peppercorns
1 Tablespoon fresh dill , chopped
Sour cream for garnish
- Saute 1 chopped onion in 2 Tablespoons oil until golden. Add shredded beats, carrot and celery. Cook for about 10 min.
- Add tomato paste and white vinegar, or lemon juice (I use vinegar). Cook for 10 minutes. Add to the boiling water or soup stock.
- Add whole onion, bay leaf , peppercorns. Bring to boil again and simmer for 20 min.
- Add shredded savoy cabbage. Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until cabbage is done.
- Remove the whole onion , bay leaf and peppercorns.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped dill (for a more tangy flavor, you may add more vinegar, 1 tsp at a time).
- To serve this at any time when it is not necessary to be meatless, use chicken or beef broth as the base.