USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘communion’
Customs
Foodways
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Rituals, festivals, holidays

Catholic Polish Christmas Tradition: Oblatek

Content: Oblatek (pronounced “Obwatek”)
Informant – “Oblatek is an unleavened wafer. On Christmas, the head of the household breaks off a piece of the wafer and gives it to his spouse with some message. Could be ‘I know I am not perfect, but I will try harder,’ or ‘the best of everything for you.’ It’s a confession of love. Then the wife breaks off a piece and gives it to the next oldest person in the room with a wish of her own for that person. And so on and so forth until everyone has a piece. Everyone shares a message with someone.”

Context:
Informant – “It’s about love. Sharing love and well wishes at Christmas. It’s a family bonding activity. The wafer is very similar to a communion wafer.”
The informant learned of this tradition from his family. He used to do it when he was a child.

Analysis:
It’s very Catholic and very Polish. The bread, though similar to communion wafer, is a uniquely Polish recipe. It’s interesting that the informant never lived in Poland, and only practiced this ritual in America. It was, perhaps, a way for his family to preserve their cultural identity while simultaneously observing a religious holiday.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Traditions in the Greek Orthodox Church

“When you, like, leave your shoes somewhere, if they are facing upwards… so the sole of your shoe is facing upwards, you have to go turn it over. Um, so it, as if—so the bottom of your shoe is the dirtiest part and you don’t want that facing up to face God. Um, so you always turn it back over so that the top of your shoe is facing upward. Um, even if it’s on the side, normally you’d flip it to the– flip it down, so that the bottom doesn’t face up. Um, other things like that….

You never cross your legs in Church. Um, I mean, like, possibly you can do your ankles if it’s- you’re just really uncomfortable, um, but normally you’d never, ever, really cross your legs. Men or women, can’t cross their legs. Um, it’s just a sign of respect, um, things like that.

Also, a lot of, it’s much more common now for any churches, you can kind of go in very casually dressed, um, maybe, you know, look a little nicer, but in the Orthodox church, you get dressed up every week. So you see a lot of people with heels, like women with heels, um, or nice dresses all the time. Um, if you don’t you kind of stick out. Um, you know the men always wear, like, a nice shirt and khakis and things like that, um, Sunday best definitely applies.

Um, and it’s different also with communion. Um, I know a lot of protestant churches don’t have communion every week, Catholic churches do, we do have communion every week, um, but its not, like, you don’t have to have a first communion for it, you don’t have to have, um, any sort of like training or preparation for it. Um, they’ll give it straight to, like, infants, um, and also it’s not grape juice, like a lot of churches use, it’s wine. Um, and there’s also a tradition, I don’t know if this is true in the Catholic Church or not, um, but if there’s any leftover wine, or communion, you can’t just get rid of it, um, you have to drink it. The priests always drink it, so in the back of the church it’s always a little funny to just watch the priest, like, chugging bottles of wine.”

 

My informant is a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, a faith she inherited from her mother’s family. My informant is well versed on the practices in the Catholic Church as she attended a Catholic high school. All these small details are things my informant picked up from her mother and grandmother as she was growing up. She says that she is always aware of how shoes are lying on the floor, even in her college apartment. The rest of these details are only important when she is in church.

 

 

Folk Beliefs
general

Body of Christ

My mother was told – and believed- that if she bit the uh Eucharist wafer or whatever, it would bleed forever and that you would drown in the blood. Like it would just fill your stomach. I guess you wouldn’t drown, I don’t know what would happen if your stomach was just forever filled with blood, you’d probably get sick.

 

My informant was told this by his mother who heard it at church as a girl. What’s interesting is that this could have multiple purposes. Maybe another kid told it to her just to scare her within a religious setting as a form of children folklore backlash against an establishment and ritual associated with parents. Perhaps she was told this by an adult who believed that biting the communion wafer was disrespectful, because it represents the body of Christ and biting it might represent mutilating it, thus s/he scared my informants mother into not biting it.

 

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