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    Our Advent Calendar 2022. Day 16: Sharing Christmas Wafer

    The Christmas Eve wafer is an integral part of the Polish Christmas Eve tradition. It symbolises bread, which, like the wafer, should be shared with others. We cannot imagine Christmas Eve without it. It reminds us of family love, friendship, reconciliation and forgiveness. It makes us forget misunderstandings, quarrels and feuds, wishing each other all the best from the bottom of our hearts.

    The tradition of sharing a wafer dates back to the time of the first Christians. In the earliest centuries of Christianity, the sacrificial bread, as the wafer was called, was eaten during the meetings of Christian communities, their prayers, and a reminder of the rites of bread and wine celebrated by Christ at the Last Supper. During the religious ceremonies, ‘prażma’, the consecrated grains selected from the mature wheat ears, were used. Over time, thin bread plates made of unleavened dough began to be used

    The presence of the wafer in the Polish home was supposed to ensure the family’s peace, prosperity and God’s blessing, and protect the household from calamities, natural disasters or other misfortunes. Polish families believed that if they shared the wafer throughout the year, they would not experience hunger and would be prosperous enough to share bread with others. Wafer crumbs were also thrown into the well to ensure health and strength for those who drank from it. The wafer was also shared with animals. It is believed that the wafer saved the four-legged animals from plague, pestilence or bad luck.

    The Christmas wafer is a symbol of harmony, reconciliation and forgiveness, a sign of friendship and love. Sharing it at the beginning of the Christmas Eve supper expresses the desire to be together. Does it also express forgiveness? It has its symbolism in more than just spiritual terms. The very substance of the wafer: “bread”, also emphasises the temporal nature of the wishes. There is another dimension to the symbolism of bread, which reminds us to be like good bread and like bread to share.

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