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Ever Heard of Polish Christmas Oplatki?

May 08, 2020 3 min read

oplatki polish christmas wafer tradition

Oplatki, a Christmas wafer is an essential part of a Polish Christmas tradition, to be shared among participants of the Christmas Eve dinner.

What Is Oplatki?

It's such a shame that we can rarely see any snow in December anymore, but imagine this. Imagine a nice winter afternoon on the 24th of December. All cozy, smelling of delicious festive food, in the lights of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

The whole family, after a day of fasting, gathers around the dinner table just as soon as the first star appears in the sky - a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem, after which baby Jesus was born. This is how Polish Christmas Eve, known as Wigilia, begins.

 Then, a prayer is said or an excerpt from the Bible is read aloud, with everyone standing up. The eldest member of the family or the head of the household begins sharing the Oplatki with the rest of the family. As a participant in this tradition, you are to offer Oplatki to everyone present, one by one. As you break off a piece of the wafer from each other's Oplatki, you share wishes for the next year.

But what exactly is Oplatki? Made especially for the occasion, this type of unleavened bread is created from flour and water. Oplatki comes in a rectangular shape, embossed with an image from a nativity scene. 

The tradition is to share the Oplatki among all members of the family and all participants of the Christmas Eve dinner, as the Oplatki holds a symbolism for the body of Christ. As you share it around, you also share wishes for good health and prosperity. The key is for everyone to look into each other's eyes and share a moment of love as if you were sharing bread with another person.

What follows next is the Christmas dinner, made from at least 12 dishes (and no dairy or meat products except for fish), as well as the sharing of Christmas presents and going off to a Christmas mass in the evening, if you wish.

The History of Oplatki

The tradition of breaking the Oplatki, in Poland, began sometime in the 10th Century. A similar custom can also be found in Lithuania, Latvia and some parts of Slovakia, as it has spread there during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At first, this custom was reserved only for the nobility.

Today, the sharing of this unleavened bread is considered to be one of the most important elements of Christmas celebrations at home and a part of a patriotic ritual - meaning that you don't have to be religious to enjoy taking part in this tradition. Even so, some people tend to send Oplatki along with Christmas greeting cards to loved ones.

Oplatki represents not only the body of Christ but also the unity of the family, which is why it is important to have it shared among all members, and it represents a non-sacramental foreshadowing of partaking in the Holy Eucharist.

Can You Make Your Own Oplatki?

If you really want to follow the tradition, it is best for you to purchase your Oplatki from a Polish Catholic Church directly (and these are usually made by nuns), or to have your own consecrated in a Polish Catholic Church. However, you can still make your own, and here is a recipe to help you out! These unleavened wafers are made from flour and water, so you won't need much. Just note that these wafers are not gluten-free.

Take 120g of flour and sieve it to a bowl. Then add half a glass of water and a tablespoon of oil (of your choice). Mix it all together so the dough becomes smooth.

Then, pour the mixture onto a hot pan (or into a sandwich or waffle maker). When the dough becomes yellow, it's done. After about three weeks, it will become white and ready for sharing - so do prepare for it in advance.

We hope you liked this article, and we wish for your next Christmas to be joyful!