Saturday, April 7, 2012

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS: Święconka -Easter Basket Blessing

by Staś Kmieć
for the full article - Easter Traditions: The Holy Week – Wielki Tydzień check the April issue of The Polish American Journal
On a Holy Saturday morning in my youth: dressed up in fine clothes, my brother and I prepared to bring our first Easter basket to church to be blessed at the parish Święconka. My mother and father assembled and arranged the contents according to tradition and upon entering the church hall; we were introduced to an ancient Polish ritual and what would become an annual commitment. With each year, the baskets became more elaborate, and eventually embodied the full extent of the custom. Extended family members living four hours away had the privilege to have visits from the parish priest, who would travel from house-to-house to personally bless the Easter table and leave with an envelope in hand.
Two sisters made our family complete, and each year a basket was blessed in either location. As the years went by and elder relatives passed away, celebrations centered at our hometown. Then the Polish parish was closed, and the observance was relocated to a church of merger.
The American priest welcomed this tradition – one he had never heard of. With Polish blessings translated into English by our displaced Polish pastor, the custom continued, and American baskets containing chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans were added. The Polish choir sang, as many parishioners looked in fascination at the odd Polish baskets filled with lambs made from butter or sugar, intricately decorated eggs, sausage, ham, smoked bacon, twaróg white cheese, babka, bread, horseradish, salt, a candle, and water to be blessed. Unlike the other baskets with cellophane grass, these baskets were decorated with fresh flowers, pussy willows, ribbons, and sprigs of greenery and covered with white eyelet embroidered doilies.
The cherished Święconka tradition is one of many Easter traditions that are identifiable
and unique to Polish Catholicism.