One my favourite parts of the Christmas season is Christmas Eve. Growing up, this was the only day of the year that we would use my mom’s china. We would set the table so nicely and then, before eating, we would have the tradition of sharing oplatek. I’m half Polish and my family always observes this tradition on Christmas Eve. As we all sit down to Christmas Eve dinner, we bring out the oplatek which is a flat thin bread that has different religious Christmas pictures on it. For example, there would be one piece of bread with the three wise men, or one with the Holy Family.
Then, my father takes the bread and breaks it with my mom, blesses her, and gives thanks for all that she brings to our family in affirmation. For example: thank you for the joy that she brings to our family, or thank you for her service. Then, he continues going around the table blessing each of his children. My mom often will repeat the task and go around herself and bless everyone. When I was little and spending Christmas at my grandmother’s, she would start by blessing everyone, then all her children would in turn bless their spouses and children. Now that I’m older and my family is growing, there are again multiple blessings among the smaller families that make up the bigger family. It is such a beautiful tradition that lifts us all up, blesses us, helps us to appreciate one another, and to be appreciated.
When all the breaking of the bread is done, we start our feast of stuffed salmon, perogies with mushroom sauce, salad, and chocolate yule logs stuffed with whip cream for dessert. I usually enjoy this meal more than the turkey meal Christmas day because I’m always hungrier for it. Christmas day, I end up eating all day and not able to work up an appetite for the big turkey meal.
When I was a child, after supper finished, we would have to hand wash the china and put it carefully back for next year’s celebration. We would sing, “The 12 Days of Christmas” while we cleaned up. I come from a family of six so each of us would have two of the twelve days each. I remember, I always got to belt out “5 golden rings” and loved it.
Now, we haven’t spent Christmas at my parents’ house for some years, so we haven’t used the china. We also haven’t sung “The 12 Days of Christmas” for a while. However, we are still keeping our tradition of oplatek and our meal menu.
What is one of your favourite Christmas traditions?
You might also be interested in reading about my family cross-country skiing at Christmas.