The traditional Polish Easter basket blessing occurs on the Saturday before Easter. The beautifully packed food baskets will remain untouched until Easter once they are blessed by the priest. My friend Viola invited me to her church’s blessing ceremony today.
Baskets are laid at the alter, awaiting the group blessing
As I approached the church for the 1 pm service, other families were carrying large baskets, most covered with fine linens or lace, most of the baskets lovely as well. From a distance I already knew they were packed with care. I reached the church early, greeted by the wonderful scent of dozens of Easter lilies in the narthex (entry area.) As I entered the church more Easter lilies graced the altar. Most people arrived just before the service started, setting their baskets on the altar steps.
Everything in a basket has special symbolism
The traditional contents of most baskets include eggs, to symbolize the life and Christ’s resurrection. Of course the Ukrainian and Polish tradition of intricately decorating Easter eggs is an entire subject itself. Viola explained the eggs are shared on Easter morning. Bread is symbolic of Christ and salt represents purification. Horseradish symbolizes the bitter sacrifice of Christ. Sausage represents joy and abundance. Most baskets had a bottle of wine and a candle, both for Easter dinner in the early evening.
Viola included a small Babka (cake) reminding me of the ‘hot-crossed’ buns my mother would buy when I was little. Lamb symbolizes Christ, and lamb often graces Easter dinner tables. Many baskets were graced with flowers, some lovingly arrayed. Once the baskets were set on the altar, the coverings were removed so they could be blessed. Many included fresh flowers; all were lovely and obviously packed with care and thought.
The short blessing ceremony included a scripture reading, a sprinkle of holy water and prayers. Then everyone gathered up their baskets, socialized and headed off to more Easter errands and preparations. For a brief moment, I remember my children’s Easter baskets filled with jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and chocolate malted candy eggs. There’s no comparison really to this age-old Polish tradition. I smiled as I left the church, feeling a little blessed myself.
Wesołych Świąt! Happy Easter!