Each Christmas our family continues a thousand-year old tradition that has been celebrated in Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia. It’s the breaking and sharing at Christmas of a special flat wafer made of unleavened bread similar to the communion host that’s given out in Catholic and Episcopalian churches.
The oplatek (pronounced oh-pwa-tek) wafer (pictured above) usually is oblong in shape and has the nativity scene on it in relief. The tradition is celebrated on Christmas eve before a dinner celebration that begins at the sighting of the first star that night. However, in our family we have the ceremony at dinner on Christmas day itself.
The father begins by telling the family about the significance of this day, and how special was the gift which was given to us nearly two thousand years ago. He continues by explaining that Christmas really isn’t about gifts and presence, but it’s about being part of a family, the family of God and our own family. He reminds us to love everyone in our family, despite any differences between us. He tells us that some of our family isn’t here tonight, either because they’re no longer alive or because they live in some other place.
The father then gives thanks for all of the blessings we’ve received, breaks the oplatek in half, gives half to his wife, and kisses her and wishes her good health, long life and happiness. Both the father and the mother then break off a piece of the wafer and share it with each child, again with kisses, hugs and wishes for health and happiness. Each person at the dinner shares a piece of his/her wafer with everyone else who’s present, yes, with kisses, hugs and good wishes.
If your family has a Christmas tradition, please help keep it alive. If you don’t think there is a tradition, ask the oldest persons in your family, because maybe they’ll remember a family tradition that was forgotten over the years.
On this Christmas day, from our family to your family, best wishes for health, long life and happiness. May a bright star always shine over your home!