The tradition of blessing food at Easter time is a Slavic tradition that was brought to the United States by immigrants from Poland, Ukraine, Russia and other Slavic countries. It is a centuries-old custom rich in symbolism and something that the whole family can do together. In Connecticut, it is mainly Poles who practice this tradition; however, with the ethnic church becoming a thing of the past, many parishes are adopting this practice, and it is spreading to parishioners of other nationalities.
“Swieconka” is the Polish name for the blessing of the food. If it is something that is being offered in your parish this is what you need to do. Get a large basket; one with a handle is traditional, but whatever you have will be fine. You can place one or all of the traditional items in the basket.
Maslo: butter shaped like a lamb or in the form of a cross. This is to remind you of the goodness of Christ. These are really cute, too, and sure to please the kids in the family.
Babka: Easter bread. Christ is called the bread of life and the babka usually has a cross or a fish on top if it. You should be able to purchase a babka at your local grocery store.
Chrzan: Horseradish with grated red beets, this symbolizes Christ’s passion, but the sweetness is a reminder of his resurrection.
Jajka: eggs. They are the sign of new life and the Christ rising from the tomb.
Kielbasa: sausage to remind you of Christ’s generous spirit.
Szynka: smoked ham, to remind you of God’s generous nature in giving his son and his mercy.
Sol: salt. Jesus said you are the salt of the Earth.
Ser: cheese. This is usually shaped in a ball as a symbol of moderation.
Finally, a candle is usually inserted into the basket to represent Christ, the Light of the World. The basket is covered with a linen cloth and brought to the church to be blessed.
Now, most people who are not of a Slavic tradition are not going to be serving most of these items. That does not mean that your Easter meal should not be blessed. If you are having ham put your ham in the basket with a couple of whole potatoes, some colored Easter eggs if you have done them, fresh vegetables or your Easter dessert.
It doesn’t matter what you are serving, what is important is that you are asking God to bless your meal. You, in turn, are thanking him for the blessing he has given to your family and the gift of his only son. Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ victory over death and the hope of eternal life that he has given his people. “Swieconka” is a wonderful way to celebrate this.