LUBLIN, Poland – As Poland prepares for Christmas, a lot of prior work goes into pursuing its long-standing tradition of making wafers.
The Fides Center for Economic Initiatives in the city of Lublin is one of the institutions that makes Christmas wafers, known as “Oplatki” in Polish, carrying on the age-old practice.
These ultra-thin wafers are made of flour and water and are then pressed between two engraved pieces of metal and baked.
The 10th-century tradition possibly began with a type of flat bread called “podplomyk,” small pieces of thin bread, baked before other loaves of dough and shared with family and neighbors as a goodwill gesture when bread was scarce.
As Christmas Eve marked the end of Advent and the last day of fasting in Catholic Poland, supper traditionally consisted of twelve meatless dishes, including fish, beet, mushroom or pea soup and a variety of cabbage, mushroom or potato dishes, followed by dried or stewed fruit compote and pastry desserts.
After saying grace, the head of the household would break an Oplatki and express New Year wishes hoping for either good health to all or forgiveness.
Afterward, family members shared the rectangular wafers decorated with religious images embossed on them.
The wafers symbolize the unity of the family and also forgiveness and reconciliation. Often sold in churches, they can now also be found online.
As per tradition, white wafers were for people while red, gold and green ones were either for decoration or given to domestic animals as treats.