Eastern Slovakia
Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn Genealogical Research

The Christmas Wafer - Oplatky

By Father George M. Franko

Holy Name Church, Youngstown, Ohio

Christmas Wafers-Oplatky

Christmas wafers have been part of our Slovak Christmas Eve supper, Vilija, as long as we can remember!

We recall that God sent manna to His people as they sojourned in the desert. We also recall that Jesus said that He was "the bread of life," and that He left us His Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine in the Eucharist.

Christmas wafers are called oblatky and this name indicates their purpose and origin.

Blessed bread, associated with Mass and yet distinct from the Eucharist, has been used as a sacramental in both the Eastern and Western Christian traditions.

In the West, the custom has survived in the pain benit (blessed bread) given in some French churches after High Mass.

In the East, the use of blessed bread developed into the practice of antidoron. Some of the bread prepared for Mass (prosphorae-offerings) was not consecrated, spiritual communion. This practice still continues in the Byzantine Rite, but usually, only on major feasts.

In the Latin Rite, the bread and wine offered at Mass are referred to as oblata (offerings). What the Byzantine call prosphorae, the Latins call oblata. It is from the Latin Oblata that our Slovak word oblatky is derived.

While the word oblatky is derived from the Latin, the religious custom of oblatky at Christmas is nurtured by both the Latin and the Byzantine traditions.

Slovaks are fortunate in preserving this custom at Christmas, as an aid to a worthy reception of Holy Communion as well as a family spiritual communion on this most joyous of feasts!

For more information, read Jim Saget's Memories of Oplatki and Slovak Christmas Eve by Father George M. Franko.

It's All Relative is now accepting Oplatki Orders for Christmas 2012.

Back to Genealogical Research in Slovakia

Back to Christmas in the Slovak Tradition

Midi Arr. of Nebo i Zeml'a Copyright 1996, Randall Kopchak