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BOBAL’KI Recipe

Traditional Recipes for Holy Supper

[In case you haven’t noticed, I pay attention to the searches that lead you to this blog and try to find the information you want to include here so you have one resource where you can find all this Christmas related info. I always link to the original source, that way it’s easier for you to expand your quest for relevant info. That said, I haven’t tried these recipes and have never eaten BOBAL’KI. (Although it does sound pretty yummy!) If you have a better family recipe, tried and true, that you’d like to share, please feel welcome to leave it in any comments you wish to write!]

BREAD FOR CHRISTMAS EVE
1 pkg dry yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
6 c. flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. salad oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/8 tsp. salt & 1 Tbsp. sugar. Set in warm place to rise. Sift 6 c. flour in deep bowl, add 2 c. warm water, 4 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt & 4 Tbsp. salad oil. Knead well & set aside to rise. When volume has doubled, punch down & let rise second time until it doubles again. Punch down. Divide dough in two equal parts. Shape one part into round bread, cover & let st& 20 minutes. Punch down & reshape. Place in greased pan. Allow to rise until double in volume. Bake at 350 for one (1) hour.
Note: The second part of this dough will be used for Christmas Eve Bobal’ki.

CHRISTMAS EVE BOBAL’KI
Use the other half of the above dough for bobal’ki. Knead & roll on floured board into rope. Cut & roll into balls about one (1) inch in diameter. Place on floured pan & let rise for about 15 minutes. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until just slightly brown, then remove & let cool. Place in vigorously boiling water for up to two minutes until they just start to soften. Drain in col&er & add oil/onion or honey/poppy seed mixture (heat honey with a little water, 1/2 c. ground poppy seed & 1/4 c. sugar. Pour over bobal’ki) before placing in a serving dish.While our family always serves these hot, others prefer to let the bobal’ki st& several hours in cool place (or refrigerator) before serving.
Note: Some bobal’ki are served with sweet cabbage or sauerkraut. Sauté cabbage or sauerkraut with onion in salad oil, then mix with bobal’ki.

CHRISTMAS EVE BOBAL’KI
1 pkg. yeast
6 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 c. water (approximately)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. sugar
* c. lukewarm water
* c. oil

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water; add salt & 1 tablespoon sugar. Let it set about 10 minutes. Sift flour & sugar. Add yeast mixture & rest of ingredients. Knead well. Let rise until doubled. Punch down. Cut off portions of dough about the size of an egg. Roll out on floured board by h& to make roll about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Place on greased cookie sheet. Let rise about 20 minutes.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool & separate. Place in col&er. Pour boiling water over Bobal’ki. Drain quickly to prevent sogginess.
Any of the following mixtures may be used on the Bobal’ki:

1. Sauté 1 small onion in 2 tablespoons oil. Add 1 pound sauerkraut (drained); cook about 15 minutes. Add mixture to half of Bobal’ki.
2. Combine 1 c. ground poppy seed, 2 Tbsp. honey & 4 tablespoons water. Add to remaining Bobal’ki. Mix well.
3. Melt 1 stick margarine. Combine with 2 tablespoons honey & 1/2 c. strawberry preserves.

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[I am of Polish descent, specifically the Poznan region. In trying to create a meaningful Christmas for my child, I have started mining information on Christmas Traditions in Poland. I don’t plan on recreating all of them but the ones that remind me of my Polish father and my childhood will probably make their way into our Christmas celebration. I will share my traditions as I prepare for the holiday! Here is the beginning of my research. If you have any you’d like to share, I would be very interested in hearing them!]

Polish customs, especially at Christmas time, are both beautiful and meaningful.

The preparations for Christmas begin many days before the actual celebration. Nearly everywhere women are cleaning windows in apartments and houses just before Christmas. The insides of the houses are also cleaned thoroughly. It is believed that if a house is dirty on Christmas Eve, it will remain dirty all next year.

Weather Forecasting is quite popular during Christmas. Everything that happens on Christmas, including  the weather, has an impact on the following year. The weather on Easter and throughout the next year supposedly depends upon the weather on Christmas (snow, rain etc). Only a white Christmas is considered a real Christmas; therefore, everybody is happy when there is fresh snow outside.

Some ceremonies take place before the Christmas Eve supper. Among farmers, a popular ritual is the blessing of the fields with holy water and the placing of crosses made from straw into the four corners. It is also believed that animals can speak with a human voice.

Straw is put under white tablecloth. Some maidens predict their future from the straw. After supper, they pull out blades of straw from beneath the tablecloth. A green one foretells marriage; a withered one signifies waiting; a yellow one predicts spinsterhood; and a very short one foreshadows an early grave.

Poles are famous for their hospitality, especially during Christmas. In Poland, an additional seat is kept for somebody unknown at the supper table. No one should be left alone at Christmas, so strangers are welcomed to the Christmas supper. This is to remind us that Mary and Joseph were also looking for shelter. In Poland, several homeless people were interviewed after Christmas. Some of them were invited to strangers’ houses for Christmas; others that were not asked inside the homes but were given lots of food.

It is still strongly believed that whatever occurs on Wigilia (Christmas Eve) has an impact on the coming  year. So, if an argument should arise, a quarrelsome and troublesome year will follow. In the morning, if the first visiting person is a man, it means good luck; if the visitor is a woman, one might expect misfortune. Everyone, however, is glad when a mailman comes by, for this signifies money and success in the future. To assure good luck and to keep evil outside, a branch of mistletoe is hung above the front door. Finally, old grudges should end. If, for some reason, you do not speak with your neighbor, now is the time to forget old ill feelings and to exchange good wishes.

Traditionally, the Christmas tree is decorated on the Wigilia day – quite an event for children. The custom of having a Christmas tree was first introduced in Alsace (today a region of eastern France) at the end of the 15th century. Three centuries later, it was common around the world. Early on, the tree was decorated with apples to commemorate the forbidden fruit – the apple of paradise (the garden of Eden). Today, the Christmas tree is adorned with apples, oranges, candies and small chocolates wrapped in colorful paper, nuts wrapped in aluminum foil, hand-blown glass ornaments, candles or lights, thin strips of clear paper (angel’s hair), and home-made paper chains. The latter, however, has become rarer because commercially produced aluminum foil chains are being sold.

Christmas and Santa Claus Day are not celebrated at the same time in Poland, but rather three weeks apart. Santa Claus (called Mikolaj) Day is celebrated on December 6th, the name day of St. Nicholas. This is when St. Nicholas visits some children in person or secretly during the night.

Christmas Day, called the first holiday by the Poles, is spent with the family at home. No visiting, cleaning, nor cooking are allowed on that day; only previously cooked food is heated. This is a day of enjoyment, for Jesus was born. On Christmas Day, people start to observe the weather very closely. It is believed that each day foretells the weather for a certain month of the following year. Christmas Day predicts January’s weather, St. Stephen’s Day impacts February’s, etc.

St. Stephen’s Day is known as the second holiday. This is a day for visiting and exchanging Christmas greetings. When night begins to fall, you can hear stamping and jingling, followed by Christmas carol singing outside. Carolers begin their wandering from home to home. Herody, a popular form of caroling, is a live performance usually played by twelve young boys. Dressed in special costumes, they include King Herod, a field marshal, a knight, a soldier, an angel, a devil, death, a Jew, Mary, shepherds, and sometimes the Three Kings and an accordionist. They sing pastoral songs and carols, and when let into a house, perform scenes from King Herod’s life. Oration and songs vary and depend upon to whom they are being addressed: the owner of the house, a young woman about to be married, a widow, etc. At the conclusion, the performers  are offered refreshments and some money. Also popular is caroling with a crib (szopka) and with a star. Usually, those are items are carried by three caroling teenagers. They, too, are given some money.

The Breaking of the Oplatek
One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the oplatek. The use of the Christmas wafer (oplatek) is not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world.

The oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water. For table use, it is white. In Poland, colored wafers are used to make Christmas tree decorations. In the past, the wafers were baked by organists or by religious and were distributed from house to house in the parish during Advent. Today, they are produced commercially and are sold in religious stores and houses. Sometimes an oplatek is sent in a greeting card to loved ones away from home.

On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers and waits impatiently for the appearance of the first star. With its first gleam, they all approach a table covered with hay and a snow-white tablecloth. A vacant chair and a place setting are reserved for an unexpected guest, always provided for in hospitable Polish homes.

The father or eldest member of the family reaches for the wafer, breaks it in half and gives one half to the mother. Then, each of them breaks a small part from each other’s piece. They wish one another a long life, good health, joy and happiness, not only for the holiday season, but also for the new year and for many years to come. This ceremony is repeated between the parents and their children as well as among the children; then, the wafer and good wishes are exchanged with all those present, including relatives and even strangers. When this activity is over, they all sit down and enjoy a tasty though meatless supper, after which they sing koledy (Christmas carols and pastorals) until time for midnight Mass, also know as Pasterka (“the Mass of the Shepherds”).

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russian dome ornaments

russian dome ornaments

[taken from http://russian-crafts.com/customs/christmas.html ]

Thirteen days after Western Christmas, on January 7th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates its Christmas, in accordance with the old Julian calendar. It’s a day of both solemn ritual and joyous celebration

After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia, along with other religious celebrations. It wasn’t until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed. Today, it’s once again celebrated in grand fashion, with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense-filled Cathedrals amidst the company of the painted icons of Saints.

Christmas is one of the most joyous traditions for the celebration of Eve comes from the Russian tradition. On the Eve of Christmas, it is traditional for all family members to gather to share a special meal. The various foods and customs surrounding this meal differed in Holy Russia from village to village and from family to family, but certain aspects remained the same.

An old Russian tradition, whose roots are in the Orthodox faith, is the Christmas Eve fast and meal. The fast, typically, lasts until after the evening worship service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is very much a celebration, although, meat is not permitted. Kutya (kutia), a type of porridge, is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace.

Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin. Although all of the food served is strictly Lenten, it is served in an unusually festive and anticipatory manner and style. The Russians call this meal: “The Holy Supper.” The family gathers around the table to honor the coming Christ Child. A white table-cloth, symbolic of Christ’s swaddling clothes, covers the Table. Hay is brought forth as a reminder of the poverty of the Cave where Jesus was born. A tall white candle is place in the center of the Table, symbolic of Christ “the Light of the World.” A large round loaf of Lenten bread, “pagach,” symbolic of Christ the Bread of Life, is placed next to the Candle.

The meal begins with the Lord’s Prayer, led by the father of the family. A prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings of the past year is said and then prayers for the good things in the coming year are offered. The head of the family greets those present with the traditional Christmas greeting: “Christ is Born!” The family members respond: “Glorify Him!” The Mother of the family blesses each person present with honey in the form of a cross on each forehead, saying: “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, may you have sweetness and many good things in life and in the new year.” Following this, everyone partakes of the bread, dipping it first in honey and then in chopped garlic. Honey is symbolic of the sweetness of life, and garlic of the bitterness. The “Holy Supper” is then eaten (see below for details). After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. Then the family goes to Church, coming home between 2 and 3 am. On the Feast of the Nativity, neighbors and family members visit each other, going from house to house , eating, drinking and singing Christmas Carols all the day long.

The “Holy Supper”

Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity. Some families used to throw a spoonful of kutya up to the ceiling. According to tradition, if the kutya stuck, there would be a plentiful honey harvest.

Traditionally, the “Holy Supper” consists of 12 different foods, symbolic of the 12 Apostles. Although there was also some variation in the foods from place to place and village to village, the following is a good summary of what was typically served. It comes to us from Elizabeth Kontras, who celebrated the Feast of the Nativity in the traditional Russian way with her babishka (Grandmother) and zeddo (Grandfather) in Monessen, Pennsylvania until their passing in the 1970-1980’s. The twelve foods are:

1) Mushroom soup with zaprashka; this is often replaced with Sauerkraut soup
2) Lenten bread (“pagach”)
3) Grated garlic
4) Bowl of honey
5) Baked cod
6) Fresh Apricots, Oranges, Figs and Dates
7) Nuts
8) Kidney beans (slow cooked all day) seasoned with shredded potatoes, lots of garlic, salt and pepper to taste
9) Peas
10) Parsley Potatoes (boiled new potatoes with chopped parsley and margarine)
11) Bobal’ki (small biscuits combined with sauerkraut or poppyseed with honey)
12) Red Wine

It was once common practice, on Christmas Eve, for groups of people masquerading as manger animals to travel from house to house, having themselves a rousing good time, and singing songs known as kolyadki . Some kolyadki were pastoral carols to the baby Jesus, while others were homages to the ancient solar goddess Kolyada, who brings the lengthening days of sunlight through the winter. In return for their songs, the singers were offered food and coins, which they gladly accepted, moving on to the next home.

Ded Moroz and yolka

The origin of Santa Claus is in St. Nicholas. He was born in Asia Minor at at the Greco-Roman city of of Myra in the province of Lycia, at a time when the region was entirely Greek in origin. Due to the suppression of religion during the Soviet regime, St. Nicholas was replaced by Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost, the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts on New Year’s. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, the Snowmaiden, who helps distribute the gifts.

The Christmas tree (Yolka) is yet another tradition banned during the Soviet era.To keep the custom alive, people decorated New Year’s trees, instead. Since ornaments were either very costly or unavailable, family trees were trimmed with homemade decorations and fruit. Yolka comes from the word which refers to a fir tree. The custom of decorating Christmas trees was introduced to Russia by Peter the Great, after he visited Europe during the 1700’s.

Why January 7?

In ancient times, many, mostly unreliable methods had been used to calculate the dates according to either the lunar or solar cycles. By Roman times, the calendar had become three months out with the seasons, so in 46 BC, Julius Caesar commissioned the astronomer, Sosigenes to devise a more reliable method. This, we know as the Julian Calendar and was used widely for 1500 years. The month of his birth, Caesar had named Quintilis, but the Roman Senate later re-named it Julius (July) in his honour. In those days, February had 30 days every 4 years.

However, this calendar was still 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year, so that by the year 1580, the calendar had accumulated 10 days off again. In 1582, therefore, Pope Gregory XIII corrected the difference between the sun and calendar by ordering 10 days dropped from October, the month with the least Roman Catholic Feast days. His calendar, we know as the Gregorian Calendar, which is used in almost all of the world today. Pope Gregory made further changes to keep the calendar in line, which on average is only 26.3 seconds longer than the solar year. The Gregorian Calendar is so accurate that it will take until the year 4316 to gain a whole day on the sun.

That year, 1582, October 5th became October 15th and was immediately adopted in most Roman Catholic nations of Europe. Various German states kept the Julian Calendar until 1700. Britain and the American Colonies didn’t change until 1752, but Russia and Turkey did not adopt the Gregorian Calendar until the early 1900’s.

So, January 7th by the Georgian Calendar would have been December 25th by the old Julian Calendar and is therefore why it is still Christmas Day for the Russian Orthodox Church. Many Russians will have celebrated along with the rest of us and will then celebrate again on the Orthodox date.

New Year Eve instead of Christmas

Few people in Russia remember, but when the communists took power in 1917 they banned the open expression of religion. While it was easy to pray at home, the Russian people were concerned about giving up their traditional Christmas celebration.

But where there is a will, there is a way!

They re-invented the New Year’s holiday tradition to include a decorated tree, and introduced a character called “Grandfather Frost.” Known as “Ded Moroz,” Grandfather Frost looked very much like the western “Santa Claus” or “Pere Noel” – except he wore a blue suit.

Actually, Ded Moroz was a character that existed in the pagan culture, centuries earlier. For a time, Christmas was all but forgotten. In fact, it was generally celebrated only in small villages, where the citizenry was far from the prying eyes of the Party.

Today, Christmas is celebrated again, on January 7. But, to date, New Year’s remains the bigger event.

Special thanks to Bill Scott who kindly helped me with this article

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I’m so excited! I’ve been looking for just the right thing and this is what I decided on
(and Santa told me he would use it on all the baby’s Christmas gifts until whenever!)
I love it!

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My little one is still too young to really get excited about Christmas, so I am planning our family traditions now while he is so young in hopes that he will acquire the sense of wonder that I had when I was young. I absolutely loved Christmas preparations, decking the halls and baking so many yummy treats. My Aunt Nancy used to make Christmas cookies. She had gingerbread men, peanut butter blossoms, butter balls(russian tea cakes) and iced sugar cookies with dragees decorating them. My mother always prepared my paternal grandmother’s nut roll recipe. She would make raspberry, apricot, poppy seed and traditional walnut all frosted with yummy vanilla frosting. My mom also had these white feather wreaths she hung on the living room wall, porcelain angels that would hang on the lamps and these strange lantern-like gold garlands that would drape across the windows. We always had to have an artificial tree because my mom was allergic to the real ones. My fondest decoration was the plastic, glittery candy garland that used to hang in the kitchen doorway. Oh and then there were also the little plastic elves that everyone seemed to have. We always opened one gift on Christmas eve then we would go to bed and Santa Claus would come and leave us more presents. We always woke up early to see what Santa brought and then we would go to church. As we got older we would start going to midnight mass. My maternal grandmother was born on Christmas day so she would come over every year for dinner which usually included a ham with all the fixings. My husband’s family really didn’t have any strong traditions, the only thing he remembers are the handmade felt ornaments his aunt use to make. Those and this odd family concoction called hamloaf!? I have the recipe, I just don’t know if that is one tradition I want to encourage! :o) Over the next few months, I hope to share our traditions as well as some of my friend’s and fellow Christmas lovers!(and if I can dig out the old Stamblesky nut roll recipe, I might just share that too!)

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