Yesterday I participated in a podcast with Chris Cash of the The Catholic Company and Catholic Spotlight. Our topic was oplatky, which are the special Christmas wafers traditionally used on Christmas Eve by Eastern European families. As soon as that podcast is posted, I’ll provide the link.
**Updated: the link is here.
One of the things we discussed was the traditional dinner known as Wigilia in Polish. The Slovak tradition is similar, and I promised Chris I’d check out my copy of The Anniversary Slovak-American Cook Book and do a post about the dishes listed there. The Traditional Christmas Eve Supper Menu is listed on page 8 and includes this explanation:
The traditional Christmas Eve Supper is prepared with home grown crops. The menu, therefore, varies in different parts of Slovakia. Varieties of soups are served. For example, some people serve mushroom soup, others serve sauerkraut soup with mushrooms…
Although I have a Slovak heritage, I and my family are definitely American and our taste buds, especially those of the children, don’t necessarily agree that sauerkraut or stewed prunes make for good eats. Having a “traditional” dinner isn’t much fun if nobody wants to eat it. So, although I post this menu for those who may be interested, I do not claim to prepare all these dishes or heartily enjoy them. If I were truly a traditionalist, my dinner would be made with home-grown crops which, this year, were primarily tomatoes, basil and peppers, none of which are included in this list.
Traditional Slovak Christmas Eve Supper
Oplatky (Christmas Wafers)
Honey (my mom says they always dipped the oplatky in the honey)
Pagash (this is a filled dough – similar to stromboli, but filled with sauerkraut not tomato sauce and cheese)
Bobalky (this is a bread that you pour boiling water over and then coat with honey and poppy seed…sounds, um, different)
Fish (no specific recipe given)
Mixed Dried Fruits or Stewed Prunes
Assorted Fresh Fruits
Nut and Poppy seed Rolls
Rozky (see below)
Rozky was a section heading in the cook book and based on the picture and a quick read of the recipes must translate into “cookie”. Most of the recipes seem to be a filled cookie (nut filling or poppy seed or cheese or jam), and many seem to be shaped into crescents or horns. Since I’m a huge fan of cookies, I thought I’d share one of the Rozky recipes. Some of the recipes have various names, but at least 6 are labeled simply “rozky.” This is one of those. I say this so purists won’t write and tell me that their great-grandmother’s rozky recipe is nothing like my rozky recipe. For the record, I make Russian Tea Cakes with pecans, but many people say walnuts are the correct nut to use. Everybody has her own preference.
1 1/2 pounds flour
1 pound butter
1 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 can evaporated milk
5 egg yolks
Mix first 7 ingredients until well blended and dough does not stick to hands. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. Roll out on floured surface and cut into 3″ squares. Fill with poppy seed, prune butter or any desired filling. Roll and turn into crescents. Brush top with milk. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
I am third generation American born descendant of German, Bohemian and Moravian ancestors and I have never heard anyone refer to the oplatky. It was never a tradition in our family. I wonder why that is?
Well, it's definitely not German. Maybe it just didn't reach that part of Eastern Europe (?), but I can't imagine why not with the Czech Republic just south of Poland. Is the German blood through the women in your family? If you have a German wife and a Moravian husband, I can see that perhaps the woman who runs the house would neglect to incorporate something that she wasn't familiar with. And the Germans do do a good Christmas celebration. I am also 3rd generation American born and I'll bet that very few of my cousins do the oplatky…and even probably very few of my aunts and uncles (2nd generation) do it. My mom is one of the older children. I wonder if that makes a difference, too.
Three of my great grandparents were Czech and one was German. She was my Grandpa's mom, but the Czech culture is the one I grew up with. My grandpa knew a little German, but my grandparents spoke Czech to each other (especially when they wanted their conversation kept private). My Grandmother's mom died when she was a teenager and my Great-grandpa even went back to the old country to get a new wife so her step-mom was also from the same part of Bohemia as her mom was. My mom is the youngest, but her family was very close growing up. We spent many, many, many Christmases all together. In fact, she still celebrates an early Christmas with her siblings in December every year. They get together, just themselves, to have a Christmas dinner and exchange gifts. It's very curious, these cultural things.
I'm Polish and here's what we do for our Wigilia =
Cream of Broccoli soup (it's supposed to be mushroom, but only one child can abide mushrooms)
farmer cheese pierogi
stewed saurkraut with mushrooms
breaded fried mushrooms (which one child mentioned above and I pig out on)
some sort of baked fish
There are traditionally supposed to be twelve items, but if you count all the Christmas cookies I've made, it's far more than twelve. Yes, we break out the cookies on Christmas eve.
Charlotte, the opłatky is definitely a Slavic thing, so maybe if the German side influenced the Bohemian side a bit more than the Slavic side, this custom was not perpetuated in your family.