Beloved Polish Tradition
"Święconka (pronounced [ɕvʲɛnˈtsɔnka]), meaning "the blessing of the Easter baskets," is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions on Holy Saturday. While originally observed by Polish Americans in the U.S., it has become increasingly mainstream in U.S and is starting to grow in the U.K. as the Polish go there to live. Catholic churches, being observed by a wide cross-section of parishes."
"For example, the Chicago Tribune reported Francis Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of Chicago performing the blessing in a church on Chicago's Northwest Side on Holy Saturday of 2007. In 2008, a similar service took place in the Chicago archdiocese at St. Alphonsus Liguori Roman Catholic Church in Mt. Prospect, Illinois."
"Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, and boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the creativity of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event."
"While in some older or rural communities, the priest visits the home to bless the foods, the vast majority of Poles and Polish Americans visit the church on Holy Saturday, praying at the Tomb of the Lord (the fourteenth and final Station of the Cross). The Blessing of the Food is, however, a festive occasion. The three-part blessing prayers specifically address the various contents of the baskets, with special prayers for the meats, eggs, cakes and breads. The priest then sprinkles the individual baskets with holy water."
"More traditional Polish churches uses a straw brush for aspersing the water; others use the more modern metal holy water sprinkling wand. In some parishes, the baskets are lined up on long tables; in others, parishioners process to the front of the alter carrying their baskets, as if in a Communion line. Older generations of Polish Americans, descended from early 19th century immigrants, tend to bless whole meal quantities, often brought to church halls or cafeterias in large hampers and picnic baskets."
Easter Basket Recipe
3 cups of flour
2 packs of dry yeast
1 cup of milk
4 TBS of butter
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 egg yokes
Combine flour with yeast. Heat milk, add butter, let it melt. Add milk, salt and sugar to flour mixture. Mix well with electric mixer. Form a ball and leave it to rise. On a flat surface, roll ¾ of dough with rolling pin until you get a 10” square. Cut into 24 strips. Lay 12 strips next to each other, and use the other 12 to weave between them. Cover ovenproof bowl with butter. Place it upside down on a cookie sheet. Place the strips on top of the bowl, cut the ends. Cover the strips with egg yolk. Bake for 45 minutes in 350 oven. After 20 minutes, cover the strips with aluminum foil so they would not burn. Remove from the oven and let it cool. Roll the remaining dough into a rectangle; cut it into 3 strips (to create a rim for a basket). Braid the strips and place them on a cookie sheet. Cover with egg yolk and bake for 20 minutes. Gently remove basket from a bowl and pin the rim into it with toothpicks
The Blessed Foods and their symbolic meaning:
“paska”, cakes, eggs, horseradish, sausages, ham, salt, pepper, and tiny sugar lambs.
- Egg (pisanka). Symbol of life and rebirth.
- Sausage (kielbasa), ham and/or smoked bacon. All types of pork were forbidden under the dietary code of the Old Testament (Leviticus 11.7). The coming of Christ was seen as exceeding the old law and the dietary items now became acceptable (Mark 7.19).
- Paschal lamb. It can be made of butter, sugar, cake or even plaster. It is the centerpiece of the meal. Christ is seen as the "Lamb of God."
- Horseradish/pepper. Symbolize the bitter herbs of the Passover and the Exodus. or "The consecration of horseradish refers to the bitterness of the passion of Jesus which, on the day of resurrection, changed into joy and sweetness.
- Salt. Joins bread in Polish tradition as a sign of hospitality.
- Bread. Christ has been called "the Bread of Life."
- Vinegar. Symbolizes the gall given to Christ at the crucifixion.
- Wine. Symbolizes the blood of sacrifice split by Christ at the crucifixion.
Traditions vary from family to family and have changed with each passing generation. Some allow children to place chocolate into the basket. The priest may also bless these items found in the Easter basket:
- "Cheese. Shaped into a ball, it is a symbol of moderation Christians should have at all times."
- Holy Water." Holy water was used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in religious rituals throughout the year."
- Candle. "This is changed yearly in the home on "the night before Easter" to signify the power of light over darkness."
- "The custom of coloring eggs for Easter is still observed. Eggs which are painted in one color are called “malowanki” or “kraszanki”. If patterns are etched with a pointed instrument on top of the paint, the eggs are then called “skrobanki” or “rysowanki”. Those eggs decorated with the use of treated wax are called “pisanki”. Another technique involved gluing colored paper or shiny fabric on them."
- The Easter Lamb bearing a cross-emblazoned flag represents Christ Resurrected and is the typical Polish Easter symbol. " - food in the shape of a lamb is butter or sugar-
See also outside links:
Have you ever wished for a classic Easter special to show your kids? Here Comes Peter Cottontail is a Rankin & Bass production that bears a marked similarity to the beloved Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.