A Christmas Tradition

When I was a young child and lived in Ohio, I remember our Christmas celebrations including oplatki, the thin, communion wafer-like “Christmas bread” that is a tradition among Eastern European Catholics.  My mother is Slovak and ethnic churches are plentiful in Ohio.

When I was an older child, we moved to Richmond, Virginia.  The Catholic population was not as dense there, and the ethnic groups were not very diverse.  Oplatki was not available locally, so the only times we had it were years we happened to be in Ohio for Thanksgiving or some other occasion in the late fall.

Of course, now we have the internet, and online stores like the Catholic Company will happily ship oplatki right to your doorstep. 

I introduced the use of oplatki with my own family several years ago when I found it available online.  The oplatki is shared on Christmas Eve.  The children watch the sky for the “First Star” – the sign that the Christ Child is here.  In my family, we then process with the infant Jesus statue and place him in our creche.  We bless the creche, then we bless the Christmas tree and officially light it.  Then we sit and eat because our food has been growing cool while we attended to ceremonies.  At some point, I will remember and say, “Oh!  The oplatki!” and I will scurry around trying to discover the “safe spot” where I put the envelope.  Usually, I find it.

The oplatki wafers are handed out.  My husband makes some sort of formal speech wishing everyone a happy Christmas and a blessed upcoming year.  And then there is mild chaos as we all break off pieces to exchange with each other as we give out kisses, hugs and cheery greetings.  I thoroughly enjoy our Christmas Eve festivities which are all about love and not at all about stuff.

It may seem early to be talking about Christmas, but oplatki is available for order now.  If you would like to try this tradition (or revive it), then plan ahead.  Be sure to put your wafers in a “safe spot” you can remember.

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5 thoughts on “A Christmas Tradition

  1. Thank you for letting me know about where I can get oplatki!
    My Mom is Polish, and she cooks the Vigilia dinner every Christmas Eve. We always started out with the oplatki…
    Now that we spend most Christmases here at home, the oplatki has become our own tradition as well. But it's been almost impossible for me to find.

  2. I've heard about it, but not had the tradition. It's interesting how closely the Polish Catholics and the Orthodox of the region commemorate Christmas Eve.

  3. I'm Polish, so we do this with our Wigilia dinner. But the annoying part is when the little ones start looking out for the first star…and I'm not ready with the food yet….

  4. Christina, we convince them it's only a plane…and then we convince them that the plane is really a star if we're ready to go…

  5. Our priest made that available for us for sale at the parish office last Christmas, but we didn't get a chance to buy it before it was all snatched up. Thanks for the link. DH and I both have Slovak heritages and I've been trying to incorporate that into our family traditions. It's hard to do because I am not very good at making kolacky, and as far as I'm concerned, that is THE thing to eat around Christmastime!

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