There is a centuries-old Easter tradition of blessing the food in Poland that is practiced by most Poles and Catholics of Polish origin throughout the world.
On the Holy Saturday - the day after Good Friday - Polish families prepare a baskets of victuals that are to be blessed by priests in parish churches.
The basket is usually lined with elaborately embroidered white linen napkin and decorated with sprigs of the ever green boxwood. Sometimes sprigs of pussy willows are also used to decorate not only the Easter basket, but also the table.
Food may vary from region to region, but most families would put naturally died Easter eggs, a chunk of sourdough bread, salt and pepper, a piece of smoked sausage, a piece of Easter cake, and an Easter lamb usually made of white sugar. Sometimes wine, vinegar and horse radish are also blessed.
The Easter holidays follow after a forty-day long period of fasting and self denial. The suffering of Christ and his sacrifice, resurrection, renewal and gratitude are in the center of Easter celebrations.
Each item in the Easter basket has a symbolic meaning. Easter egg, for instance, is an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Bread and salt are the foods that sustain life. Wine symbolizes the blood of Christ. Vinegar, pepper, and horse radish represent the bitter "herbs" which foretold the Crucifixion. Meat symbolizes the resurrection and Christ's victory over death. The lamb is a symbol of the sacrificial Pascal lamb. The Easter cake symbolizes the end of fast. After a long period of Lent it is time to indulge and enjoy the life again.
The baskets are blessed on Saturday and are usually placed on a table on Easter Sunday when families gather together to share the blessed food after the Easter Mass.
Although death of Christ on the cross is by no means a joyful event, it has a very deep symbolic meaning. His passion, suffering and sacrifice lead to redemption of sins. This is itself is a reason for everlasting joy.
Even if you are not religious, Easter is a time of new beginning. It is a time of forgiveness and joy, but also a time for deeper reflection on the meaning of life.
Wishing everyone happy and peaceful Easter Holidays - Dominique Allmon
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