Pope John Paul II Polish Center

3999 Rose Drive

Yorba Linda, California 92886

tel. (714) 996 - 8161

Polskie Centrum im. Papieza Jana Pawla II w Yorba Linda, California

     
   Polish Easter Traditions
      

Blessing of the Easter Basket Foods

The blessing of the Easter foods is a tradition dear to the hearts of every Polish family. Being deeply religious, they are grateful to God for all His gifts of both nature and grace. As a token of this gratitude, they have the food of their table sanctified with the hope that spring, the season of the Resurrection, will also be blessed by God's goodness and mercy.

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.

The blessed foods and their symbolic meanings are:

* Egg (pisanka)—Symbol of life and rebirth.

* Sausage (kielbasa) or ham—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, 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.

* 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 spilled by Christ at the crucifixion.

 

One of the best-known Easter symbols is the egg, which has symbolized renewed life since ancient days. The egg is said to be a symbol of life because in all living creatures life begins in the egg. The Persians and Egyptians also colored eggs and ate them during their new year's celebration, which came in the spring.

Today many people still color Easter eggs and decorate them with fancy patterns and symbols. The sun symbolizes good fortune; the rooster, fulfillment of wishes; the deer, good health; the flowers, love and charity.

Pisanki. Although this term has come to mean Easter eggs in general, strictly speaking it refers only to those eggs decorated with the molten-wax technique. Various regions have developed designs of their own, which include floral and geometric patterns, typical Easter motifs (the Lamb, Cross, pussy willow), the greeting, "Wesolego Alleluja," or simply "Alleluja" and the current year. Many American Poles design eggs with the names of their friends written on them. They exchange these decorated eggs with each other during their Easter visitations along with their good wishes.

 

Baranek Wielkanocny. The Easter Lamb bearing a cross-emblazoned flag represents Christ Resurrected and is thus the typical Polish Easter symbol. The lamb adorns greeting cards, sugar lambs are blessed in Easter baskets and plaster lambs form the centerpiece of the swieconka table.

 

After Easter Mass, the faithful hurry home to feast on the delicacies they saw little of during Lent. Cold dishes predominate like ham, kielbasa, roast meats, pasztat (pate), hard-boiled eggs in various sauces, salads, beet and horseradish relish (cwikla), followed by such holiday cakes as babka, mazurek and sernik. In some families the breakfast starts with a tart, whitish soup containing eggs and kielbasa, known as bialy barszcz in eastern Poland and zurek elsewhere.

 

Before Easter breakfast begins, members of the family consume wedges of blessed Easter eggs and exchange best wishes in much the same way as oplatek is shared on Christmas Eve.

 

This centuries old custom is indeed richly symbolic and beautiful. It is one in which the whole family can participate and help prepare. May this tradition endure for many generations to come.

All of you can enjoy this beautiful Polish custom by participating at the blessing of the Easter food at the Polish Center or at the Polish church nearest you. This is an excellent way to teach the younger members of your family about this treasured Polish tradition. Remember, it is up to us to teach our customs to our children.