Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Here's a required part of Christmas when celebrated with my Mom's family:

One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the oplatek. The use of the Christmas wafer (oplatek) is not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world.

The oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water. For table use, it is white. In Poland, colored wafers are used to make Christmas tree decorations. In the past, the wafers were baked by organists or by religious and were distributed from house to house in the parish during Advent. Today, they are produced commercially and are sold in religious stores and houses. Sometimes an oplatek is sent in a greeting card to loved ones away from home.

Family members extend oplatki (plural--oplatek is the singular) to one another, and break pieces off, offering good wishes and blessings for the coming year.

Every year we know that Oplatki Time is coming. It's awkward--like knowing you will be required to give a mini-speech to people you haven't seen since last year. Every year someone jokes about not doing it, or tries to barter it down to just holding up the wafers and making one big communal Christmas wish/blessing. But we always do the thing. It's tradition, dang it.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Heifer in my Mom's honor. She was really surprised, and quite touched. Will share more later, but now it's family time.