I recently learned of a Polish custom of getting Easter baskets blessed. The church just north of me had a sign about this ritual, which was held today at 1:30 pm. Even though the service was in Polish, I decided to go.
Over 200 people attended the event, most dressed up and brought traditional baskets like the one above. Other baskets were contemporary. The tradition is to put your family’s Easter Day food in the basket and have the priest bless it the Saturday before Easter.
The service I attended was short and sweet with some dialog between the priest and the congregation, the priest talking and then families bringing up their baskets and the priest spraying holy water over the baskets.
This ceremony was outside and the priest blesses all the baskets together rather than one by one as I saw.
Each item in the basket is symbolic. According to one article, “The baskets themselves are decorated with flowers, ribbons and greenery and lined with or covered by linen, which is often embroidered. The linen is symbolic of the shroud that covered the body of Jesus in the tomb.
“Foods in the basket and their symbolism include:
Salt representing wisdom, purity and preservation. It reminds us to flavor our dealings with others by the example of Christ.
Butter, often in the shape or a lamb — the Lamb of God — is symbolic of the goodwill of Christ that we should have toward all things.
Babka the sweet, eggy Easter Bread, often round and always topped with a cross symbolizing Jesus — the Bread of Life, the Risen Lord and the sweetness of life. Other baked goods, including lamb-shaped pound cakes, might also be included.
Bread, often sourdough rye bread, the staff of life.
Kielbasa, symbolic of God’s favor and generosity. Eastern European traditions contend the sausage links are a reminder of the chains of death that were broken when Jesus rose from the dead.
Bacon and/or ham, symbolic of the overabundance of God’s mercy.
Horseradish — as in the Passover meal — this bitter herb symbolizes the harshness of life and Passion of Christ. In the the Polish Easter tradition, horseradish is sweetened by mixing it with red beets — cwikta.
Cheese including Pascha, cottage cheese, goat cheese or cream cheese, a symbol to remind Christians to show moderation for all things.
Eggs, usually brightly decorated, symbolic of spring, new life and Christ’s resurrection from the tomb.
Wine, the drink of the Passover meal and Las Supper. Wine gladdens the heart and helps us enter into the joy of the resurrection and its sparkle reminds us of the glory of Easter.
Chocolates in the form of eggs, bunnies, jelly beans or sugar lambs are 20th-century additions to the baskets, symbolic of the sweetness of life.
Candle representing Christ as the Light of the world.”
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