Christmas wafer (in Polish: opłatek).
The Christmas wafer symbolizes the unity of the family. Before Christmas partaking family members begin the celebration with a prayer and breaking of the Christmas wafer (opłatek - symbolizing also the bread eaten daily — our day-to-day common life; very old Christian tradition of sharing bread) and wishing each other good fortune in the upcoming new year. After the prayer, usually done by the man of the house, the opłatek is broken and pieces are given to everyone attending the table.
From there, everyone breaks off a piece of their opłatek, and shares it with everyone else, wishing luck and joy in the upcoming year. This wish is usually finalized by a kiss on the cheek.
The unleavened wafers are baked from pure wheat flour and water, are usually rectangular in shape and very thin, they are identical in composition to the altar bread that becomes the Eucharist at the consecration during Mass in the Roman Catholic Church. Opłatki shoułd be sanctified by a priest. The Opłatki wafers are embossed with Christmas-related religious images, varying from the nativity scene, especially Virgin Mary with baby Jesus, to the Star of Bethlehem.
The breaking of the Christmas wafer is a custom that began in Poland in the 10th century and is practiced by people of Polish ancestry around the world. It is considered the most ancient and beloved of Polish traditions.
In Poland and some parts of Central Europe, these Christmas wafers are dyed and used as ornaments. They are also sent as small trinkets with greeting cards to loved ones who are away from home. The Christmas wafer symbolizes the unity of the family. According to beliefs, the bond of unity should exist between family members. The father is seen as the link in the unbroken chain of One Body, One Bread, One Christ, and One Church, while other family members join him in this eternal procession. The wafer also symbolizes forgiveness and reconciliation.
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