Folktales, Legends, and Stories


St. Lucy Day (she who brought “light” to the long winter nights) is celebrated on December 13. On the day after her feast the baking of “oblatky” or “oplatky” – the traditional wafers served at Christmas Eve supper (Vilija) – began. Oblatka comes from the Latin word oblata, which means offering. Oplatky is the unleavened wafers imprinted with the scene of the holy birth. The wafer symbolizes the host that at mass will become Christ’s body.

In Slovakia, the week was filled with practical preparation for Christmas. A local teacher’s role was to assure that every household had wafers on its Christmas table. It was sometimes included in his contract. Teachers willingly took this role, eager to contribute to creating a Christmas atmosphere.

Preparation varies. The teacher usually sent children to visit houses and sing a song, which he taught them, to get grain for baking. Landlords used to give them not only wheat but also legumes, smoked meat and eggs. The teacher took care that the grain arrived at the mill and back on time. If there was a community mill, the miller provided the flour; sometimes the teacher provided the flour. He also bought other necessities except for milk, butter and eggs. Women brought these to the school as soon as they found out that wafers were going to be made. Young men took care of the wood and assisted in baking the wafers since working with the baking irons was not an easy task, and because baking usually lasted until late at night when pupils were too tired to help.

Sometimes the baking lasted almost until Christmas, depending on the size of the village. A few days before Christmas, school children distributed them in baskets to each house. Each family got 15 to 20 water wafers, about five honey wafers and usually a few rolls. Larger families, of course, got more. Before the distribution the teacher made sure the children knew the wish by heart and they could begin. 


 “We wish you for this feast

To have as much milk as you have water

And full jars of cream, butter like a flower.

Give me a coin right now.”


After the children distributed the wafers a landlord filled their basket with foodstuffs, gave them a small coin and a bigger coin for the teacher. Preparation and distribution of wafers had a lasting place in the traditional life of a village.

In other villages, each family contributed a measure of flour for the baking of the oplatky for the entire village.  The oplatky were received from the priest or minister well beforehand so that, in the event of snowbound conditions, which were common in the mountainous regions, this symbol of Christ and the Eucharist might serve as their Christmas Eve spiritual nourishment.

In some homes at the Vilija supper, the father serves the wafer to each family member starting with the wife. He asks her forgiveness for any hurt he may have caused and invites reconciliation with a kiss. He proceeds to the rest of the family expressing his love and wishes for their well-being. The family often shares their oplatky with one another in the same manner. In some households the Father ceremoniously drizzled the honey in the form of a cross and circle on each oplatka as he pronounces his blessing for the season, the Vinš.

Oplatki can be order from:

Jankola Library 570-278-5606, E-Mail or mail Jankola Library, Villa Sacred Heart, Danville PA 17821.

Excerpts for this feature were taken for Slovak Folk Customs and Traditions, and The Joy of a Slovak Christmas.