Monday, December 24, 2007

One more sleep 'til Christmas

There's nothing quite like Christmas Eve.

No matter how old I get, the night is always filled with a sense of anticipation and excitement that I simply don't feel at any other time of the year. Unlike previous years, when the excitement was fueled by a greedy pining for the stack of gifts I'd be plowing into the next morning, my Christmas Eve excitement is tempered with a sense of contentment. The month-long preparations have culminated in this night--the Christmas lights burn brightly outside, Bing Crosby gives musical voice to our White Christmas longings, It's A Wonderful Life is playing in the background and the whole family gathers around a Christmas Eve spread of shrimp, pierogies and other wondrous dishes. Cliche? Perhaps. Cheesy? A little (especially the pierogies!). But these have been the trappings of December 24th for as long as I can remember and I intend to one day follow the same formula for my own children.

Christmas Eve is also special because it's the one night of the year that my family actually engages in an ethnic tradition--the Polish use of oplatky Christmas wafers. (We pronounce oplatky as "oh-pwa-tech", but I'm not sure if that's completely accurate.) Churches distribute these wafers in the weeks leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, each family member takes a wafer:
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.
We're not that formal about it--no one cares if Dad goes first--but we do spend a moment with each member of our family and say the things that we don't normally take the time to tell each other. It's a tradition that probably wouldn't fly in a lot of households and I'm grateful that my immediate family is close enough that we can continue to do this every year.

Wherever you are, I hope you are spending Christmas with the people you love, enjoying a fantastic Christmas dinner and (of course) watching It's A Wonderful Life tonight at 7 p.m. (CST) on NBC! :-)

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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