WSDPAHS’s THIRD ANNUAL EASTER BASKET SOCIAL, LUNCHEON, & PISANKI WORKSHOP
ON SATURDAY, MARCH 29, WAS A HUGE SUCCESS!
By Laurie A. Gomulka
The folks at the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy never disappoint, and this luncheon was no exception! We had a fabulous turnout of 50 adults and four children, and 40 for the pisanki workshop (including the four children) for our Third Annual Easter Basket Social & Luncheon. The room was warm and inviting, enhanced by Polish folklorist Marcia Lewandowski’s table filled with her colorful array of eggs in a myriad of hues, decorated in the Polish pisanki style. The table linens were in spring pastel colors and the centerpiece on each was a bright, cheery primrose plant of intense color, reminiscent of a Shakespearean sonnet and ready for the spring garden!
Deacon Maciej Stelmach of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary told us all about the Święconka (Easter basket) tradition before lunch and distributed a handout that described the religious significance of many of the items that traditionally are placed into the Easter basket for blessing by the priest. He blessed our food and we enjoyed a delicious lunch of pierogi, smoked kiełbasa, kapusta, Polish bread (babka), green salad, potatoes with dill, California mixed vegetables, cheesecake, and coffee/tea.
What I love most about this Society is when I receive a personal greeting from a member or guest signing up for an event. Along with a reservation for this event, I received an Easter card containing a very special handwritten note, which will make its way into our archives, and which I’m compelled to share with our members. This message summed up what the Easter Basket Social is all about and epitomized my feelings about why this Society and our events are so special.
The guest wrote:
“I am ever so grateful that you’re offering this luncheon. I read about it in the Troy Times.
“I remember going to Church the Saturday before Easter with my Mom. She would have packed a basket full of food, and decorated the basket with ribbons, and, if we had any, flowers. When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why we weren’t going to eat the food there at Church-like a picnic-that’s when she explained . . . the priest is going to bless the food in the basket. He’s blessing everyone’s Easter dinner.
“That always stuck with me-not everyone can have the priest over for Easter to bless their dinner, so this way, he can bless everyone’s dinner, regardless of where he eats! I always thought it was so generous!
“Well, thank you again! My friend and I are truly looking forward to this ‘Easter Treat’!”
We’re so grateful to the Troy Times once again this year for the beautiful article promoting our event, which helped spread the word to the broader community. As always, we’re grateful to the Polish Times and Polish Weekly for their support of our event as well!
Marcia Lewandowski did her usual fabulous job of giving the history of the age-old tradition of egg decorating in the Polish pisanki style. Along with Marcia Lewandowski, Society Director Alina Klin, Ph.D., who also donated all the dyes used for the workshop (courtesy of WSU’s Slavic Department), patiently taught all the students the art of creating designs using melted wax and scratching designs onto the eggs with a stylus.
As Marcia explained, pisanki designs can vary by region, similar to traditional Polish dress. The designs, originally depicting flowers and other symbols of nature, as well as abstract designs, not only represent Christianity but also rebirth, spring, fertility, and eternity. The egg is a symbol of life, and it was once thought to hold magical properties and was believed to contain all of its power within its shell. Eggs were once believed to ensure both a plentiful harvest and good health.
So many of the traditions we continue to observe in our Polish culture are tied to religious symbolism. Eggs, which were once believed to ensure both a plentiful harvest and good health, have come to be associated with and to symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus. In the same way that Jesus emerged from the tomb and left it empty, a bird hatches from an egg and emerges from it into life, leaving behind the empty shell. Thus, for Christians, the egg is the quintessential symbol of the tomb from which Jesus rose from the dead and is an everlasting reminder to Christians everywhere that all who believe will enter into everlasting life.
Pisanki designs and coloring techniques typically were passed down from mother to daughter. Today, we’re grateful for the artists like Marcia and Alina who practice and teach the art to younger generations, for they are the reason that the tradition is carried on.