My wife and I will be spending our 18th Christmas Eve together this week with her family. Being only 35 and 33 that’s more than half our lives together, so that’s a lot of Christmas Eves! I would say I grew up in a very typical American family household where our Christmas tradition was mostly waking up Christmas Day morning, opening presents with family, and having a dinner that evening.
An additional tradition began for me on the Christmas Eve of 1998. My girlfriend’s, now wife, parents are from Poland and they brought the Oplatek tradition when they moved here years ago. (Think of it as breaking bread). I never heard of this before so I was told that you are given a dollar sized piece of wafer and you meet one on one with the family and share your feelings with that person. It may be congratulating them on a successful year at work or school; it could be speaking on how you’d like to mend the relationship from a potential argument or disagreement; it could be sharing what you enjoy about your relationship with them, etc. There are typically good conversations, but there are some occasional tears shed and that’s uncomfortable for me.
This would all seem fine if you enjoy speaking to someone with only about two feet of separation. I personally do not enjoy this part and, even though it’s been 18 years, I still get a little nervous and anxious about what to say and how to say it. The most difficult part for me is when there has been a disagreement and now I have to spend a few short minutes with them one on one. You can be truthful or you can pretend that all is good, but both of you feel the tension. It’s a very awkward feeling.
As you have read this so far, you probably sense I don’t enjoy this tradition as its way out of my comfort zone; however, I should be clear in that I do like the idea behind it. We should be close with family but when there is a disagreement, especially a strong one, it is a very difficult thing to do. Whether or not you practice the Oplatek tradition or not, I pray that your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day’s with family are joyous. Even more so, I pray that if you do have a disagreement with a loved one, as hard as it is, this beautiful time of year should not be spent in frustration, anger, or resentment. Only you and God know what your heart feels. You don’t have to tell the person exactly what you may want to, I’m not sure how that would go, but I can say that for your sake of the relationship as well as involved loved ones, you’re reaching out, could lead to a merrier Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!