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On the Polish Custom of Swieconka

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On the Polish Custom of Swieconka

As I have mentioned  a few times , our Parish of St Bernadette is very blessed to have people from all around the world as part of our congregation. This  makes our community truly catholic its composition.

We have many Poles , who contribute in many ways to the life of our parish. They also celebrate many things from their culture keeping Poland in their memories. One way they have done this in the last few years is by celebrating the  Swieconka. The following article was contributed by one of our Polish community to expalin to us the significance of this  custom. Now Read on………………..

 

 

 

Swieconka

While in the western societies, Easter is predominately associated with chocolate eggs, in Poland it is a time full of traditions. Among them, the most characteristic is Swieconka – blessing of the food. It is said to have roots in the pagan times as it features symbols of spring.

On the morning of Easter Saturday, a basket decorated with boxwood and lace napkin, it contains food which is to be blessed in a ceremony that takes place in churches throughout Poland. A featuring item is pisanka. These are boiled, painted eggs, usually prepared by children. In some regions in Poland, this is a cultivated a folk custom by women, who use special techniques to create intriguing patterns. These eggs symbolise life, as in the spring everything is born again. Another vital component is a lamb made out of sugar or butter which represents Christ who rises from the dead and wins over death. Soil is also incorporated, this is to protect the food from spoiling. It is also cleansing, the essence of existence and truth. A slice of bread is put in as a fundamental food item in our everyday life and is supposed to guarantee prosperity and well –being. To Christians it has always been a significant symbol, representing the Body of Christ. Sausage put in the basket is supposed to ensure health, fertility and even prosperity because no everyone could afford such food in the past. Horseradish symbolises physical strength and good health, because of its strong taste. Lastly, a piece of homemade cake is put in the basket as a symbol of skill and perfection. More modern ingredients are chocolate chicks, bunnies and eggs.

When the basket is complete, families make their way to church where the blessings take place. Usually, this happens outside, unless the weather is poor. A priest says a special prayer and then blesses the baskets with Holy water. As charity is especially encouraged during Easter, Poles put some of their ingredients into boxes as well as donate money, so the poorest in the parish can also celebrate this tradition as well.

The blessed food is consumed the following day, on Easter Sunday during breakfast. First, before the families start to eat they share the blessed eggs and say greetings to each other.  This is to encourage a good beginning as spring is about a fresh new start.

As this custom is strongly cultivated by Poles, the immigrants in the UK also try to stay true to their national identity and have Swieconka on the Easter Saturday. Despite strange looks they might receive when walking down the road with a basket covered in white lace napkins; they feel it is important to continue what has been passed on by previous generations. In today’s world there can be a feeling that such traditions are old fashioned and do not go with the spirit of modern living. However, to Poles in exile these traditions allow them to retain a link with our homeland and remember who we are. It is also another way to interact with our friends and family here and at home, as we share something together.

Swienconka features in Polish culture, but perhaps it could be something adopted by other Christians here and elsewhere to allow Easter to evolve into something else other than visiting shopping malls or supermarkets selling Chocolate eggs on a mass scale! Believers should not let the commercialism hinder what lies underneath the religious significance of Easter but instead demonstrate what is supposed to be celebrated.

Natalia  Sikora

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