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Święconka The Polish Custom of Easter Basket Foods and Blessing

by Rosemary A. Chorzempa

On Holy Saturday, the family prepared traditional foods to be taken in a basket to the church to be blessed by the priest. After the fasting of Lent, these foods were eaten on Easter Sunday as a feast. The blessed egg, a symbol of life, was shared by the head of the house with his family and friends. Customs varied by location and with families. Each of the foods has a symbolic meaning.

Masło (butter) was often shaped into a lamb (baranek) to represent Jesus the Lamb of God. Many people melted and poured the butter into a wooden mold, but butter lambs can be made by cutting and scultping a stick of butter.

Płacek (coffee cake) or Chleb (bread) to represent the Bread of Life. People also brought breads like Babka (round sweet bread with a hole in the middle), cookies and cakes in the shape of lambs.

Chrzan (horseradish) a symbol of the bitter Passion of Christ.

Jajka (eggs) considered a symbol of new life and the Resurrection. Pisanki are intricately-decorated raw eggs made with beeswax and dyes, and not meant to be eaten, but given to special relatives and friends. Kraszanki are eggs hard-boiled with red onion skins to make the shells reddish-brown. Candy eggs can be used.

Kiełbasa (sausage) spicy sausage made of pork. Kiełbasa and other meats symbolize God’s generosity, and the time of Easter celebration. Some prefer smoked bacon, veal or lamb, symbolic of the Lamb of God.

Szynka (ham) represents great joy and abundance.

Sol (salt) is a very important element in every day life. Jesus used its symbolism: “You are the salt of the Earth.”

Ser (cheese) the Easter cheese was shaped into a ball, to reprent the Earth, and as a reminder of the moderation that Christians should have at all times.

Wino (wine) symbolizes Christ’s blood.

Ocet (vinegar) represents the gall given to Christ at the crucifixion.

In some areas of Poland a candle was put into the basket to symbolize Christ, the Light of the World.

Polish Easter customs brought to America:

Gorzkie Zale (“Bitter Lamentations”, poem written by Polish poets 300+ years ago, divided into 3 parts)

Dyngus and Smigus

Pisanki

Palm-weaving (or pussy willows)

Klekotki (wooden clappers used in church to replace bells, silent during  the Triduum)

Butter lamb

Butter Lamb Instructions

Ingredients:

1 stick real butter (reg or no salt)

whole black peppercorns

short piece red or purple ribbon

Directions:

1.  Cut stick of butter in half. Stand one piece on end next to half lying down; use tip of knife to rough up the parts that will be touching.

2.  Use knife to carve the body and head, shaving off the 90 degree edges to round off. Put any extra pieces of butter back onto the lamb, for ears, tail, cheeks, optional feet. Put butter back in refrigerator to harden as needed.

3.  Use a toothpick in a circular motion to make swirls of fur, except on face.

4. Use 3 peppercorns for eyes and nose. Tie with a ribbon around neck.

5.  Place on fancy butter or other dish.

Note: This is how the Dembinski family made butter lambs for the Swienconka basket to take to church for food blessing on Easter Saturday. Rosemary’s Aunt Sally taught her this technique when Rosemary was a child.