Receive blessed chalk from priest. Above each doorway to your house, write the initials of the three Wise Men: Balthasar, Caspar, Melchior. Then you light some incense by those doors. For his family, Christmas didn’t end until the Epiphany, that’s when the Wise Men find Jesus, which was January 6th.
For Christmas and Easter, you exchange an oplatek (a more synthetic-feeling communion wafer). You’d take a piece from a plate and then go around to each of your family members and break off a piece of their’s yourself and take it, and then they’d take a piece of your’s, and you’d all wish each other well. After everybody’s exchanged and had a piece with everybody else, you eat it.
The informant participated in these rituals growing up and still participates in them now, usually in family-based groups of six or seven people, all Polish-Catholic.
The informant shared this with me in conversation.
The informant isn’t particularly religious now, so it’s interesting to me that he still participates in these deeply religious ceremonies in the presence of family. Additionally, though I’ve heard of the practice of taking communion wafers, I didn’t realize that there could be regional/event-based differences in the supposedly universal, standardized practice.
As a young child, I was taught to do the Sign of the Cross every time I heard an ambulance. I vividly recall being in second grade class, with Ms. McCarthy as our substitute teacher for the day, because our actual teacher, Mrs. Moore, was taking a sick day off. On a hot spring day, our windows were wide open, and we were letting the cool Southern California breeze enter the classroom and cool our sweaty little bodies, exhausted from a good game of kickball at our last recess break. As we are jus settling into class, a roaring ambulance truck comes speeding down Cochran Ave., blowing right past our elementary school in full force, filling the hallways and classrooms with its continuous loud sound, entering through our open windows. At that moment, our substitute teacher immediately did the Sign of the Cross. She then shared with us that, ever since she were a little girl, her parents taught her to do the Sign of the Cross any time she ever heard emergency sirens. In addition to that, she mentioned that every time she does so, she mutters a quick prayer for whomever may be in need of emergency aid.
Ever since that very day, it has become second-nature for me to automatically perform the motions of the Sign of the Cross whenever I hear an ambulance of any kindemergency truck or police car, alike. With religion being so significant in my Roman-Catholic upbringing, I make it a point to say a quick intention for whomever the ambulance is rushing to. Though it is not exactly a doctrine of my religion to perform such an act, it is nice to practice my faith on my own automatic will, even if for a millisecond or two throughout my daily routine.