The word Bethlehem means, “House of Bread”. The breaking of the bread is a sign of charity, unity, and friendship. Religious family traditions and customs bring the truths of Faith into the home. One of these beautiful Christmas customs is the Christmas Wafer; a thin wafer baked from pure wheat flour and water and bearing a simple design commemorative of Christ’s birth.
Originating in Poland, the custom of the Christmas Wafer was practiced by Lithuanians, Czechs and other central European countries and spread to other countries as well. In some traditions, a single wafer is broken and shared among those gathered at the family table for the Christmas Eve dinner. While in other traditions, a wafer is provided for each one present for the meal.
With a simple prayer for God’s grace and the welfare of the present and absent members of the family, the head of the family distributes it, a piece to each one at the table. While doing so each member of the family is kissed and is wished a joyful feast. The other family members then greet one another in the same way.
After the meal the colored wafers are given to the animals; the household pets and farm animals with a legend that goes back 1500 years that at midnight the animals are able to speak in human languages but only the pure of heart will be able to hear them.
The spiritual lesson in this age old custom is unity of the family – the main pillar of society. The bond of unity is the Christ-like charity that should exist amongst the members of the family. The father of the family is the link in the unbroken chain of One Body, One Bread, One Christ, and One Church. The family joins him in this eternal procession no matter where they are. For there is a universal longing by men to be always with one another, with God.
All this brings to mind clearly our charity for one another, to seek salvation together. Family customs remind us that we seek and obtain salvation with the help of others at all times.
Christmas Wafers available at Vercillo’s Catholic Store, call Toll Free 866-471-8399