GERMAN-LIFE-L ArchivesArchiver > GERMAN-LIFE > 2000-12 > 0977881023
From: Joseph Schmitt <>
Subject: Re: [GERMAN-LIFE] Blessed bread at Christmas
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2000 20:37:03 -0500
Hi Lynn, Here's something similar from a few other cultures. Joe
For some years now, Christmas wafers called oplatke (pronounced oh-pwot-kee)
have been available in the rectory at Christmas time. For those of you who
are not familiar with the tradition behind the sharing of the oplatke
wafers, here is some background information:
The Christmas wafer commemorates a custom which is many centuries old.
Oplatke, from Latin, Oblatum meaning Holy Bread, is our Christmas oblation.
The customary observance is called "Wigilia" in Polish, "Stedry Vecer" in
Slovak, "Kucios" in Lithuanian, and "Feliz Navidad" in Spanish. We, who are
entrusted to keep this heritage sacred from generation to generation, are
grateful to our ancestors. It is the most unique family celebration in
Christendom perpetuated with the blessing of the Church.
The Christmas wafer is reminiscent of the word Bethlehem which means "House
of Bread." The breaking of bread is a sign of charity, unity, and
friendship. Religious family customs bring the truths of Faith into the
home. The thin wafer (unleavened bread) imprinted with various Christmas
scenes is broken by the father as the head of the family and distributed to
each member. With a simple prayer for God's grace and the welfare of the
present and absent members of the family, the father spreads honey on the
wafer, breaks it, and distributes a piece to each one at the table. While
doing so he kisses each family member and wishes them a joyful feast. The
members, then, greet one another in the same way.
The spiritual lesson in this age old custom is the unity of the family, the
basic unit and pillar of society. The bond of unity is the Christ-like
charity that should exist among the members of the family. The father of the
family is the link in the unbroken chain of One Bread, One Body, One Christ,
and One Church. The family joins him in this eternal procession no matter
where they may be, for there is a universal longing by man to be always with
one another and with our loving God.
Additional customs at this time include: leaving a door partially open for a
"guest" who may appear; an extra setting is often reserved at the table
symbolizing that Christ is the "Unseen Guest"; the placing of a small
quantity of straw under the table-cloth symbolizing the Bethlehem stall; a
final custom includes the sprinkling of holy water by the head of the house
over the family and the festival-meal.
Lynn Grice wrote:
> Seasons Greetings,
> My maternal side of the family had a Christmas tradition involving bread
> that had been taken to three separate Catholic Masses on Christmas day.
> The bread was then distributed to the extended family to be eaten before
> Christmas dinner. Since both of my mother's parents were of German
> origin, Baden to be more specific, I was wondering if anyone recognized
> this as a German tradition.
> Any information would be most appreciated!
> Thank you,