Today is December 24th, Christmas Eve. In many Polish households in Poland and throughout the world, tonight they will celebrate Wigilia, a traditional Polish Christmas Eve meal. Traditionally, once the youngest child see the first star in the sky (gwiazdka), the traditional, meatless meal begins. You can read more about Wigilia itself here.
Wigilia begins with the sharing of the opłatek, a thin, wafer-like piece of unleavened bread, similar to the catholic communion host. The opłatek is a rectangular piece, often embossed with a scene from the Nativity or such. At the beginning of the Wigilia celebration, the head of the house says a short prayer, thanking God for the blessings of the past year and asking for God’s continued blessings for health and prosperity in the coming year, and hoping that the group will be again together to celebrate the next Wigilia, next year. Then the opłatek is passed around. Each person takes a piece and shares it with those around them, giving wishes for health and prosperity.
There are various traditions surrounding the sharing of the opłatek. In my family, my grandfather would say a prayer as described above in Polish. Then, the opłatek would be passed around. Each person would take a small piece, dip it in honey, and say “daj Boże miłoszerdzie“–God have mercy.
Tonight, in my home, we will have Wigilia, and will begin with the sharing of the opłatek. A similar scene is taking place this Christmas Eve in millions of homes in Poland and throughout the world. In my sister’s home, they’ll share the opłatek. My folks are hosting a good portion of my family. They will begin their Wigilia by sharing the opłatek. My cousins are doing the same, and second cousins likewise, as are aunts and uncles, and many, many more. And in Poland, my cousins there will be doing likewise. We’ll all be thinking of each other, wishing each other the best in the coming year, celebrating a tradition that is many centuries old: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_wafer.
Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji Świąt Bożego Narodzenia,
zdrowia, szczęścia, miłości i pomyślności.
Niech się spełnią wszystkie Twoje marzenia,
niech nie zabraknie ciepła i rodzinnej, wspaniałej atmosfery.