Whether you’re only a little bit Polish or have pierogi running through your veins, one of the most beloved and sacred Polish traditions is the breaking of the opłatek on Christmas Eve, or Wigilia. Practiced for centuries, it represents all the good of Christmas—faith, family and friendship.
An opłatek is basically the same bread wafer you have at church, except it’s unconsecrated. Experts believe that the practice of sharing opłatek evolved from an earlier practice in which Poles shared podpłomyk, or thin, flat bread made on fire-heated stones. This meal was common in ancient Slavic societies before Christianity. The opłatek wafer was developed later by the Benedictines of Cluny in Burgundy, France and spread throughout Europe, reaching Poland.
Eventually, the practice of sharing the opłatek on Christmas Eve became commonplace and is today practiced within Polish families around the world. Family members, typically starting with the husband and wife, wish each…
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