All of us have seen an Easter egg basket full of chocolate eggs and candies but not many have heard about a blessings basket. My family is from Mexico but we have been able to have the experience of this Polish celebration first hand, because my Daughter in Law is from Poland and we are so happy to help her to maintain the tradition in our family.
We have been taking part in this traditional ceremony Swieconka (sh-vee-en-soon-kah) Blessing of the Baskets for a few years and today we just got home, we joined hundreds of Polish families in a procession and carried our baskets, containing a sample of Easter and Mexican foods to our local church and then to a Chicago Polish Church to be blessed.
The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of evergreen. The three-part blessing prayers specifically address the various contents of the basket, with special prayers for the meats, eggs, cakes & breads. The priest then sprinkles the individual baskets with Holy Water.The traditional Polish churches like the one we went to in Chicago, uses a straw brush for dispersing the Water, while the more modern, like the one on our community, use the Holy Water sprinkling wand.
In some parishes, the baskets are lined up on long tables, as is done in the one near home; in others, parishioners process to the front of the alter carrying their baskets, as if in a Communion line and this method is used in the second Church we went.
The blessing of the Easter baskets is done as a sign of gratitude to God for all His gifts of both nature and grace. As a token of this gratitude, they have the food and basket blessed in the hope that Spring, the season of the Resurrection, will also be blessed by God's goodness and mercy.
Basket Contents and Symbolism:
Butter : This dairy product is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny), reminding us of the goodness of Christ that we should have toward all things.
Easter Bread: A round rye loaf topped with a cross, symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Horseradish : Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds, but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection. (May be white or pink [w/grated red beets].)
Eggs and Pisanki: Indicate new life and Christ's Resurrection from the Tomb.
The pisanki derive from an ancient tradition when eggs, the symbol of life, were endowed with magical properties and were thought to ensure both a plentiful harvest and good health. The name Pisanki comes from the Polish word "pisac", which means to write.
The practice of coloring Easter eggs is very much alive in Poland today as well as enjoyed by Polish people all over the world. There are several techniques for making pisanki including the use of wax flowing from a pipe or funnel, producing richly ornamented designs or the etching of designs onto a previously colored egg. The geometric and floral patterns or the animal and human images produced reveal a high level of craftsmanship and artistry.
These eggs are exchanged among friends and relatives with good wishes. Many American Poles design eggs with the names of their friends written on them. They exchange these decorated eggs with each other during their Easter visitations along with their good wishes.
Sausage: A spicy sausage of pork products, indicative of God's favor and generosity.
Ham: Symbolic of great joy and abundance.
Smoked Bacon: A symbol of the over abundance of God's mercy and generosity.
Salt: So necessary an element in our physical life, that Jesus used its symbolism: "You are the salt of the earth."
Cheese: it is the symbol of the moderation Christians should have.
Holy Water: Holy water is used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in
religious rituals throughout the year.
A candle, often marked like the Paschal Candle lit during the Easter Vigil, is inserted into the basket to represent Christ, Light of the World.
A colorful ribbon and sprigs of greenery are attached as signs of joy and new life in the season of spring and in celebration of the Resurrection.
Linen Cover - drawn over the top of the basket which is ready for the priest's visit to the home or the trip to church where it is joined with the baskets of others to await the blessing. The food is then set aside and enjoyed on Easter Sunday.
We enjoy to celebrate together this ancient Polish tradition. My DIL includes always mexican food on it, because she and my grandson love it. And some modern additions to the basket are, tools, toys and some money.