Over a hundred years ago, families from Slovakia came to this country and settled in Kenosha. These families centered their lives around their faith, including the building of a parish that honored their Slovak heritage, St. Anthony’s. This included many wonderful traditions, especially at Christmas.
Every Advent, one of those traditions continues when the Rosary Society begins selling oplatky the last Sunday in November. If you didn’t grow up with Slovak parents or grandparents, you may wonder exactly what “oplatky” is.
Oplatky comes from the Latin word “oblata,” which means offering. Oplatky is unleavened bread and the Christmas Eve meal begins with this offering. Many of our Slovak families came from villages in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia. They were often snowbound by Christmas Eve, and were unable to attend Mass and receive Communion at this special time. The local mill would provide flour for these unleavened wafers which would be blessed by the priest and distributed to each family by the children of the village. The blessed wafers served as the symbol of Christ and the Eucharist, and became each family’s Christmas Eve spiritual nourishment.
Every village had their own special tradition in sharing the oplatky, each of which was imprinted with different scenes from the Virgin Birth. Some distribute a wafer to everyone at the dinner table, break it into pieces and exchange them with everyone else at the table. Pots of honey are strategically placed around the table, into which pieces of the wafer can be dipped and eaten. In some families, the head of the house drizzles honey in the Sign of the cross on each wafer, and then passes them to each family member.
Anyone wishing to share in this tradition at Christmas with your family—Slovak or not—The St. Anthony Rosary Society sells packages of four oplatky for $1 in the back of Church during the Advent season. This is not a money-making proposition for the Rosary Society, but is a way to share our beloved heritage with others. But hurry! There are a limited number of packages, and when the last is sold, you will have to wait until next year!