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The Serious Side (Dec 2014) - JTF Christmas Letter
December 23, 2014Christmastide 2014
One of the most beautiful and enduring Polish customs is the ”breaking of the oplatek” on Christmas Eve. The oplatek (pronounced opwatek) is a thin wafer, made of flour and water and baked in oblong irons. A relief of the Nativity scene, or some other biblical representation, is embossed in each wafer. For table use, the wafer is white.
On Christmas Eve, the official end of Advent, the whole family gathers and waits for the appearance of the first star. With its first gleam they approach the table covered by a white table cloth. Pieces of hay are placed on the table or on the floor under it. An extra place at the table signifies there is room at this table for the Christ child and his Mother. The mutual sharing and breaking of the oplatek is the essence of this celebration. The male head of the house begins the solemn ceremony by taking the oplatek and praying the Blessing for the Bread. He turns to his wife and wishes her good health and the fulfillment of her heart’s desires in the year ahead. If any kind of disagreement lingers between them, the husband asks that she forgive him. The wife of the household would thank her husband, take one-half of the bread that had been broken off and responds in kind to her husband. Their openness encourages others at the table to do the same. The wafer would then be shared with older relatives, guests and then the children, beginning with the eldest. After everyone has the opportunity to share in the eating of the oplatek, a meatless supper is served. Christmas carols would be sung and the evening concludes with travel to the church for midnight Mass.
An oplatek is often mailed with a card to distant relatives. This centuries old Polish custom of the breaking and passing of the bread serves as a reminder of our daily bread and the Bread of Life who came into the world. A photograph of an oplatek is printed at the bottom of this letter.
Thank you for your valued business this past year. We appreciate every time you think of Jos. T. Fewkes and Co. for your industrial electrical needs. Hopefully we earned your continued confidence with every opportunity.
I trust you and yours will enjoy a wonderful holiday and a healthy and happy New Year.
Raymond E. Gillin
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