April 30, 2019
What is święconka, you ask? You may actually know already. Perhaps your parish celebrates this Polish tradition – many of our apostolates do, such as Holy Cross Chaplaincy in Fresno, CA, St. Benedict in Chesapeake, VA and St. Mary in Philadelphia, PA (a parish with strong Polish roots), just to name a few. Since the Middle Ages in Poland, families have brought carefully prepared and decorated baskets of Easter victuals to be blessed at the church on Holy Saturday. A traditional basket might be created by lining it with fine cloth or lace, filling it with foodstuffs such as eggs, bread, bacon and sweets, covering it all in linen and decorating it with sprigs of boxwood, or bukszpan, the Easter evergreen. Everything in the basket has a particular meaning relating to the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord. Here’s just a few of the treats and their symbolism:
Eggs – new life and Christ’s Resurrection
Horseradish – the bitterness of Christ’s Passion
Easter Bread (babka) – a traditional bread symbolizing the risen Christ
Lamb – signifies the Paschal Lamb and is usually made from the same yeast cake as babka
Bacon – the superabundance of God’s goodness (validation for all the bacon-lovers out there)
Sweets – Heaven and the good things to come
Salt – immortality
Many other things might be included, such as butter, symbolizing the richness of our salvation and the end of Lent, and kiełbasa links that illustrate the chains of death broken by Christ. The linen covering itself represents the shroud of Christ.
Of course, no one is more knowledgeable about a country’s traditions than a bona fide native. Fr. Andrzej Komorowski, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, hails from Poland, and he told us a bit about how the święconka tradition is celebrated in his home country.
“In many families there would be children (with the parents/grandparents) who go and bring the basket,” he said. “It is also an occasion to visit and pray at the tomb of Christ (the Blessed Sacrament is transferred to the tomb for adoration on Good Friday).”
Though the baskets are blessed on Holy Saturday, they must of course remain untouched until Easter.
“This blessed food will be used at the Easter Sunday breakfast which will start after the morning Mass,” said Fr. Komorowski. “We start the breakfast with wishes and sharing of this blessed food.”
A mighty penance indeed to see all the wonderful goodies but to remain disciplined until Easter morning! The longing itself typifies the great anticipation we feel during the final hours of the Triduum as we await Christ’s glorious Resurrection and the promise of new life that He brings. On Easter morning, the shroud is laid aside and we partake with joy in the blessings of the risen Christ. We certainly hope that your Easter is overflowing with the blessings of God, so richly symbolized by this enduring tradition. Happy Easter, or as they say in Poland, Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych! +