Our Polish Easter Traditions
Our Polish Easter Traditions
of God that life itself is
essentially spiritual and timeless
~Charles M. Crowe
For us, Easter is a religious holiday and, with my Polish background,
baskets are a very different than what seems to be popular.
Here's what we
The baskets themselves tended to be pretty conservative...your usual wicker or reed...but quite large. They had to hold a lot.
EggsEgg decorating is as big a deal for Polish tradition as Ukranian. Although we usually just dyed them in solid colours when we were kids (my mother was not at all into crafts other than knitting and crochet) they would be coloured using the wax resist method. Traditional symbols would include things like triangles, netting, fish, roosters, crosses, suns, stars, sheaves of wheat, wavey lines, zig zags, circles, etc. Hard boiled eggs, of course, were eaten, but raw eggs could also be dyed and given as gifts. These would be kept for years and, eventually, dry up inside. My parents still have one I did when I was in my teens and you can hear what's left rattling around inside when you shake it. Dying blown eggs was a new idea for us and I've never been able to do it...they keep floating and, no matter how carefully I wash them, they end up causing mold to grow in the dye (the dyes used can normally be used many times, as long as they are kept well sealed in between, but I had to throw it out.)
PaskaThe traditional Easter loaf of bread, this often was the centerpiece of the basket. The top was usually decorated with braided dough, dough in flower shapes or something like that. Sometimes my mom would bake one in a bundt pan and would place an apple in the middle in the basket.
MeatUsually a ring of sausage, but a small ham would be appropriate. A piece of horseradish root. Small containers with butter, salt, garlic and other such things. My mother would also tuck in small cuttings from plants that she would later root, pot and, eventually, give as gifts. Some would also include things like candles, too.
The BasketsOnly in keeping with being in Canada did chocolate, bunnies, roosters, and other candies make it into our baskets. There is no tradition behind that besides the commercial one. On the Saturday before Easter the basket would be artfully put together. The basket would be lined with cloth, usually embroidered, protected by a napkin. Once put together, it would be covered with another fine cloth or, if it's big enough, the cloth under it would be pulled over the top. A cloth ribbon would be tied into a bow on the handle. Some people would take an egg decorated to look like a bird and hang that from the handle, though I don't know the tradition behind that. Then we'd all take our baskets to the church and they would be blessed. The foods inside would then be included in the meals Easter Sunday. The horseradish would be grated and eaten with the eggs, the salt and butter used, etc. Because it was all blessed, we had to cross ourselves before we helped ourselves from the basket. Also, any waste products like eggshells or sausage skins couldn't be thrown out...they could only be burned.
Making these baskets was always a highlight for me, and it just doesn't seem like Easter without one. My mother got a small basket for me so that I could make my own and my daughter has since inherited it.
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