Society holds Polish Easter Basket Social & Luncheon Fundraiser
Saturday, March 10, 2012
By Laurie A. Gomulka
Of all our beautiful Polish customs and traditions, the ones surrounding Easter seem to hold the most meaning and to stand out most predominantly in my mind and in my memory. Perhaps it’s because Holy Week and Easter traditionally have been the most sacred of holidays for Poles and Polish Americans. Perhaps it’s because Easter coincides with springtime, and that’s when we emerge from and leave behind the darkness of winter, which is always inspiring. Whatever the reason or reasons, the customs surrounding Easter: the foods, the blessing of the Easter basket, and everything that goes along with it-from the flowers to the new clothing to the fresh smells in the air and the longer days-all fill me with so much emotion. It’s when I most long to drive back to the old neighborhood, except that not much of it exists any longer.
On Saturday, March 10, at the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy, the WSDPAHS held a Polish Easter Basket Social & Luncheon fundraiser from noon to 3 p.m. Our hope was to enjoy a luncheon of some traditional Polish foods and to share with members, family, and friends-especially children and grandchildren-the custom of pisanki, or Polish Easter egg decorating, and the tradition of the blessing of the Easter basket.
It was great to see many young people in attendance at this event! Although it was a brisk day, once everyone entered the banquet room they realized immediately that it was springtime inside! The room looked beautiful, with each table decorated in spring colors and containing an Easter basket centerpiece created by Society board members Laurie A. Gomulka and Aleksandra Porter, along with Dawn and Ava Marlett.
One of the first things one noticed upon entering the room was the gorgeous, impressive display of decorated eggs arranged on a sixteen-foot-long table, and Ms. Marcia Lewandowski, Polish folklorist, in the process of demonstrating the age-old tradition of pisanki. Everyone had so many questions to ask of Marcia and was so intrigued by her art. The photo at the bottom of Page 2 represents just a few of her many eggs that she has created throughout the years. The Polish tradition of decorating Easter eggs includes writing on them with wax and scratching designs into them with a stylus.
Marcia also had eggs which she had decorated with intricate cut paper designs, some of which, remarkably, contained over 250 pieces of paper!
Society Vice President & Executive Director/Secretary Laurie A. Gomulka welcomed the guests, and then President Rev. Gary Michalik blessed the meal, which consisted of pierogi, smoked kiełbasa, kapusta, beet horseradish (ćwikła), Polish Easter bread (babka), tossed salad (sałatka), baby potatoes with dill, California mixed vegetables, cheesecake with chocolate sauce, coffee, and Polish tea.
After lunch, Society member Rev. Lawrence Zurawski explained the tradition of Święconka, or the blessing of the Easter basket. He talked about each item in the basket and what it represented. For example, eggs represent hope, new life, and the Resurrection of Christ. A butter lamb is usually included in the basket. Dairy products represent the end of Lent and the richness of Salvation. Babka, or Easter bread, reminds us of Jesus, the risen Lord and the bread of everlasting life. Bread (chleb) represents the staff of life. Bacon (boczek/słonina) is symbolic of the overabundance of God’s mercy, and ham (szynka) is symbolic of great joy and abundance. Horseradish (chrzan) with its bitterness represents the bitter herbs of the original Passover meal and is a reminder of the bitterness and harshness of the life of slavery in Egypt, as well as the bitterness of Jesus’ Passion, by which he entered into glory. Salt (sól) is symbolic of wisdom and preservation from corruption. kiełbasa or links of sausage remind us of the chains of death that were broken when Jesus rose from the dead.
Everything about the blessed Polish Easter basket is symbolic, from each of the foods that is placed into it, to the white linen cloth that is placed over the foods, symbolic of the white cloth Jesus was wrapped in, to the boxwood (bukszpan), the traditional Easter evergreen, sprigs of which Poles have used for ages to weave through the handle of the basket. Greens are symbolic of Christ’s new life and the eternal salvation that He procured for us by His death and resurrection. Pussy willow branches also are used to decorate the basket. This is the traditional Polish “palm” and is symbolic of springtime.
After Fr. Larry gave his presentation, he blessed with holy water all of the centerpiece baskets and the basket that we had prepared for our giveaway. We then had our drawing, and the lucky winner of our Polish Easter basket was Chelsea Ficht! Many other lucky attendees took home door prizes.
Ms. Marcia Lewandowski then gave a very informative overview of the art of pisanki. WSDPAHS Director Alina Klin, Ph.D., professor of Polish Culture and Language at Wayne State University, and Ms. Lewandowski then began the pisanki workshop. Laurie Gomulka previously had stated that the Society was extremely honored and fortunate to have both Dr. Klin and Ms. Lewandowski present to conduct the pisanki workshop, as they were both experts in their fields and represented the finest of Polonia.
The afternoon was truly one of the most wonderful that the Society has experienced in a long time, and we’re grateful to all who helped to make it such a success! Dziękuję!