About Oplatek (plural: opłatki) the Christmas Wafer Tradition
While this beautiful family Christmas tradition started centuries ago in Poland and Eastern Europe – it has now spread thoughout the world and been adopted by many Christian familes.
The Oplatki wafers (remeniecent of the bread used for the Liturgy of the Eucharist), are a simple white wafer, baked from flour and water. The wafers have designs to display Christmas images, such as the Nativity, adoring angels and the Star of Bethlehem.
On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers and waits impatiently for the appearance of the first star. “The Star of the Wise Men appears in the East, summons us to celebrate this Royal Feast…”
With its first gleam, they all approach a table covered with hay and a snow-white table cloth.
A vacant chair and a place setting is reserved for the unexpected guest, (always provided for in hospitable Polish homes). The chair is placed in memory of our ancestors, of departed loved ones, and for the Unseen Guest, Jesus Christ.
The ancient ritual unites past with present….
The mother of the home lights the Festival candles on the table and says for each candle: “The Light of Christ” with all replying “Thanks be to God.”
The father or eldest member of the family reaches for the Oplatek wafer, breaks it in half and gives one half to the mother. Then each of them breaks a small part of each other's piece and, after a warm kiss, they wish each other long life, good health, joy and happiness, not only for the holiday season, but for the coming year and for many years to come.
Now the same ceremony is repeated between father and their children, as well as among the children, then, with the relatives, strangers (if they happen to be present) and even the animals (pink oplatek). On the night of the First Christmas when Christ was born, only the animals of the stable were the honored “eye witnesses” to His Incarnation. Our Christmas Oblation is for all God’s creatures.
The ceremony over, they all sit down to a tasteful, meatless supper of 13 courses, for the twelve apostles and Jesus, after which they sing kolendy (Christmas carols and pastorals) until it is time for Midnight Mass.
If you are interested in more about the Polish Vigil of Christmas Eve, we recommend the book by the same title which contains recipes, carols, stories, the complete vigil prayers and more.
All Oplatki sold by In His Name Catholic Store are made in Poland with just flour and water (pink includes a small amount of FDA approved food color).