The Polish tradition of blessing of the Easter basket has been in practice since the 15th Century. Polish families present their baskets to the Priest on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.
Decorating the basket is a symbolic and fun pastime to be enjoyed by the whole family. The inside of the basket is lined with a white linen or lace napkin. Some families choose to use linen napkins decorated with Easter eggs, traditional folk fabric or the Easter lamb bearing a cross-emblazoned with a flag. This typical Polish symbol is called Baranek Wielkanocny, which represents Christ resurrected.
The outside of the basket can be adorned with boxwood sprigs (bukszpan) and sometimes ribbon. Buzkszpan is the traditional Easter Evergreen. It reminds us of the new life that comes in spring and to celebrate the resurrection.
The Easter basket is filled with a number of symbolic foods.
Babka (BAHB-kah) - Easter Bread – this symbolizes Jesus, the bread of life.
Maslo (MAHS-who) - Butter – typically molded into the shape of a lamb .
(Baranek) or a cross. This is to remind people of the richness of salvation.
Chrzan (HZAHN) – Horseradish – this is a reminder of the bitterness of the Passion of Jesus.
Pisanki (pee-SAHN-kee) – Colored eggs decorated with symbols of Easter – is a symbol of new life and Christ’s Resurrection.
Kielbasa (Kyehw-BAH-sah) – Sausage – This is a symbol of God’s generosity.
Szynka (SHIN-kah) – Ham – This symbolizes great joy and abundance.
Slonina (swoh-NEE-nah) – Smoked Bacon – This is a symbol of the abundance of God’s generosity and mercy.
Sol (SOOL) – Salt – This symbolizes prosperity and justice. Since it adds zest to food it is also used to remind us that people are the flavor of the Earth.
Ser (SEHRR) – Cheese - This is used to remind Christians to always use moderation.
Świeca – Candle – is representative of Christ as the Light of the World.
Some families may also choose to include Vinegar as a symbol of the persecution and torment given to Christ at the crucifixion. Wine may also be included at a symbol of Christ’s blood spilled at the crucifixion.
Once the basket is filled a white linen cloth is placed over the top to represent the shroud of Christ.
In rural Poland the Easter basket was a source of great pride for the village women. The size and contents were a reflection of one’s standing in the community. Some women used wooden bowls, while others were known to use dresser drawers.
It is tradition before Easter breakfast for members of the family to consume wedges of the blessed eggs from the basket and to exchange good wishes; in much the same way oplatek is shared at Christmas Eve.
Most families choose to feast on the Easter food separately on Easter morning to remember the symbolism of each, while other families combine all the ingredients into a delicious soup known as white barszcz.
We hope this history lesson has been educational for you. Please join us at the Polish American Club for the Blessing of the Easter basket on Holy Saturday at 12:00 pm at the Polish American Community Hall.
May all the blessings of the Easter season be upon you and your family.
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