The most sacred time in the Catholic Church is Easter, aptly described by St. Gregory the Great as the “Celebration of Celebrations.” Holy Week and Easter Week are a time of special reverence, devotion and symbolism.
One of the customs during the Easter celebration among Americans of Polish decent is Easter breakfast known as “Swieconka” (pronounced Sh-fyen-sohn-kah). The foods for this meal are prepared early on Holy Saturday and traditionally include sausage, ham, colored hard cooked eggs, bread, butter or sugar formed in a shape of a lamb, horseradish, salt and pepper. Some families include the fruit, wine, cheeses and pastries.
In olden days, a priest would visit each home to bless the Easter morning foods. Today, the foods are placed in a basket and covered with a white cloth. Family members then take the basket to church for a special service, usually in the afternoon on Holy Saturday, at which the foods are blessed.
Symbolism of Swieconka foods are:
Colored Eggs (Kraszanki): Represent the “New Life” of the Resurrection from the tomb on Easter Sunday.
Sausage (Kielbasa) and Ham (Szynka): Symbolize the “New Law” in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Breads (Chleb, Babka): Symbolic of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life.
Salt (Sol): The fundamental preservative and seasoning symbolic of justice and prosperity.
Horseradish (Chrzan): Symbolize the bitter herbs of Passover and reminds us of the bitter suffering of Christ.
Butter (Maslo): This is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny). It reminds us of the good will of Christ that we should have towards all things.