Religion and Traditions
One of the most beautiful and revered Polish Christmas traditions is the “breaking of the Opłatek” or “Opłatki”. The ‘Opłatki’ tradition originated in Poland during early Christian times. This custom began with a simple white wafer, baked from flour and water; the wafers display Christmas images, such as the Nativity.
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Usually, the eldest member of the family will begin the ritual by breaking off a piece of the wafer and passing it to another family member with a blessing. This blessing can simply consist of what you desire for your loved one in the upcoming year – whether it be good health, success, or happiness. The purpose of this act is primarily to express one’s unconditional love and forgiveness for each member of the family.
Easter is a major holiday for Poles. On Easter Saturday, everyone in the community brought decorated baskets to the Polish Social Club to be blessed by the priest. These baskets would be filled with food for the next day’s feast: bread, ham or sausage, pisanki, cake, as well as the Easter lamb, and would remain untouched until Easter Sunday.
Of all the Polish Easter traditions, the Święconka, meaning “the blessing of the Easter baskets”, is the one most fondly kept by the descendants of Polish immigrants.
The traditional Polish celebration of Saint Nicholas Day, known as Święty Mikołaj, happened every year on December 6th. Children looked forward to Saint Nicholas coming to reward them with gifts for their good behaviour. The naughty ones were beaten with sticks by other children dressed symbolically as devils to remind them that they must do better next year.