My Dad grew up in a tiny alley house on Bethel Street in Fells Point. Born first generation American to Polish immigrant parents, he was brought up with the old Polish Christmas traditions~ which always fascinated me. I asked my Dad to have some of his golfing buddies of various ethnicities to share some of their holiday traditions and favorite Christmas foods. Here’s what he came up with…
Oplatek (Polish) Unleavened wafer usually rectangular in shape and very thin. Wafers are embossed with Christmas related religious images. Families break off a small piece of the Oplatek and give it to one another along with a blessing, usually during the Wigilia (Christmas Eve vigil). It is a symbol of forgiveness and is meant to remind participants of Christmas, God, and family.
Baccala (Italian) Salt Cod. Well-cooked baccalà is a delight: firm, slightly chewy, and not at all fishy in flavor. Baltimoreans line up at Pastore’s for this Christmas Eve favorite,
Hoska (Hungarian/Bohemian) Braided bread with raisins and almonds. This rich, eggy, slightly sweet yeast bread exists in almost every Eastern European culture. Typically, it’s braided and can be made with or without raisins.
Puffties (Hungarian/Bohemian) Flaky pastries filled with cheese and poppy seeds.
Christmas Stollen (German) Bread-like German fruit cake, powdered with icing sugar on the outside. For more than 50 years, a prime destination for Stollen has been the Woodlea Bakery in Gardenville. On Christmas Eve, the line of customers waiting for the store to open has been known to snake around the block.
Ostrowski’s Polish Sausage (Polish) For over 80 years, Ostrowski’s on South Washington Street has been providing their customers with this traditional holiday favorite.
Viryta (Lithuanian) A sweet and potent honey liqueur popular at the city’s Lithuanian gathering places. It is served at the Harbor Way Inn on Pratt Street. To my Lithuanian relations~ “i sveikata”