Here in the United States, schools are quick to teach students about famous Americans and western Europeans. Countries like Poland are often forgotten about, even though they had individuals who made significant impacts on the world.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
Today, every third grader knows that the earth revolves around the sun—you can thank Nicolaus Copernicus for that. Born in Torun, Poland in 1473, Copernicus was the first person to provide a detailed explanation of why the solar system is heliocentric (meaning the planets revolve around the sun). Prior to that, people had believed that everything revolved around the earth, an idea that had long been guarded by the Roman Catholic church.
You have to admit that Copernicus’s discovery was pretty amazing, considering that the telescope hadn’t been invented yet. He couldn’t really see what he was theorizing about and had to rely solely on abstract thought and reasoning. In any event, this monumental realization set the stage for all future space discoveries.
Constitution Day is an official public holiday in Poland.
On May 3, 1791, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s constitution was adopted. It was the first constitution in modern Europe and second in the world, following the American one. It was a significant achievement of the Polish Enlightenment thinkers.
May 3 was established as a holiday only days after the constitution was passed by the Grand Sejm (Polish Parliament). It was later suspended for many years due to the country’s partitioning, but was reinstituted after Poland regained its freedom in 1918. After World War II, in 1946, the communist authorities banned the holiday’s public celebration. The holiday was officially cancelled in 1951. Since 1990 the May 3 holiday has again been celebrated as an official statutory holiday in Poland.
Constitution Day is part of a holiday season known as Majówka, which also includes the May 1/Labor Day holiday. It is celebrated with military parades, spring concerts and family picnics. Many people also gather at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza) at the Piłsudski Square in Warsaw. The monument is dedicated to unknown soldiers who gave their lives for Poland.
Dyngus Day is very popular in Poland, and in Polish communities across America. After the long Lenten holiday, Dyngus Day is a day of fun. And a little romantic fun. It is always celebrated on the Monday after Easter.
Dyngus Day Tradition:
There are all sort of ways for boys to meet girls. But, this one takes the cake.
Guys, on this day you get to wet the ladies down. Sprinkling or drenching with water is your goal. Chase after the ladies with squirt guns, buckets, or other containers of water. The more bold and gallant boys, may choose to use cologne. Hitting (gently, please) the ladies on the legs with switches or pussy willows is also common.
Yes ladies, you can strike back. Ladies , you get your revenge on Tuesday, when tradition has it that you throw dishes or crockery back at the boys. It has become increasingly popular for the ladies to get their revenge on Monday, tossing water back at the boys.
Note: Dyngus Day is also called Wet Easter Monday. Hmmmmm, I wonder why!?
Origin of Dyngus Day:
When exploring the roots of Dyngus Day, Historians point to the baptism of Polish Prince Mieszko I in 966 A.D. Baptism with water signifies cleansing, fertility, and purification.
Somewhere along the way, the tradition of tossing water on the girls and hitting them with pussy willows evolved
Palm Sundayniedziela palmowa is called also The Sunday of the Lord’s Passionniedziela meki Panskiej, Willow Sundayniedziela wierzbowa, Branch Sunday niedziela rozdzkowa orApril Sunday niedziela kwietna since it takes place usually in April (not this year of course).
Here are a few of the Polish Palm Sunday traditions:
There was a custom to bring to church a figure of Jesus Christ riding on a donkey while the spectators threw flowers and pussy willow branches. Carrying the figure of Jesus was a honorary function – In Krakow, the town councilors did this. This was usually accompanied by a procession from one church to another or from outside of the church to inside symbolizing the ceremony of Jesus entering Jerusalem. The Church banned this habit at the end of the 18th century because it was becoming too theatrical and full of pranks and it was accompanied by not very religious songs. Continue reading…
WORLD WAR II LOCAL HERO TO BE INDUCTED INTO OHIO MILITARY HALL OF FAME FOR VALOR
World War II hero Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik will be inducted posthumously into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor on April 24, 2015 in the State House Atrium, Columbus, OH.
Drabik was nominated by the Holland Springfield Spencer Township Historical Society (HSSHS), as he attended Dorr Street Elementary School and was a long-time Springfield Township resident. Honoring all who served their county is part of the Society’s on-going Veterans Project.
Drabik was the first soldier to cross the Remagen Bridge in Germany on March 7, 1945, which gave the Allies access to cross the Rhine River, then Germany’s largest defense barrier. He led 10 riflemen across the bridge, surprising the Germans that they forgot to blow up the bridge. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said the capture of the bridge shortened the war by six months possibly saved as many as 50,000 Allied lives. When Eisenhower became President of the United States, he invited Drabik and the 10 riflemen to the White House and told them he was forming the Society of the Remagen Bridgehead.
Before he was sent overseas, Drabik led a rescue a group of 120 men who were lost in the California brush during maneuvers.
Drabik received a tribute in the Congressional Record in 1993 and was a commander of the now-defunct Turanski-Van Glahn VFW Post 7372. There is an Ohio Historical Marker located on Wolfinger Road where he was born installed in 2011.
Space for the pierogi class on Saturday, March 28th is full. We are sorry to all who wanted to take this class but were not able to so we are going to schedule another class in October just in time for Christmas. PACT will announce the October date when it is finalized. Thank you to all who wanted to take the March class. We hope you will be able to attend the next one in October.
This year PACT will have a shopka in the Toledo Holiday Parade.
by Stas Kmiec
Mention the word szopka (creche) or jaselka (nativity play) to someone born in Poland long ago, and you will see a spark of joy light up in their eyes. They recall the live nativity scenes, puppet shows, pageant plays and shimmering fairy tale castle-like scenes of their youth.
The Christmas creche is common to all of the Christian faith, but the szopka is unique to Poland. The szopka, once a humble peasant pleasure, has become a recognized Polish institution. A truly Polish Christmas celebration is not complete without some form of this scene.
The custom originated with St. Francis of Assisi, who set the first Nativity tableau in 1223. It was brought to Poland by Franciscan monks around the 13th century. The earliest sign of a manager scene in Poland was in St. Andrew’s church in Kraków. The first crìches were quite simple and portable, but eventually monks took on the roles of the figurines, with the exception of the infant and animals, and developed a living nativity.
Dialogue crept in and eventually the jaselka play developed. The monks were replaced by peasants, students, artisans and even the nobility. Figures from history, local tradition and legend, such as Pan Twardowski were added for national color. Allegorical figures such as the devil and smierc (death) carrying a scythe soon appeared, along with Biblical figures, such as, the Holy Family and King Herod.
The still managers became filled with multi-figure compositions. In addition to the Biblical figures and animals, Polish peasants in their regional finery and whole armies accompanying the three kings were displayed.
By the eighteenth century these figures were moveable. Stringed marionettes or stick puppets replaced the static figures. The performances presented two types of integrated plots: a Biblical one telling the Nativity story and a lay one of traditional, folk and satirical nature.
Still taking place in church, it was soon realized that the excitement of such an entertainment had gotten out of hand. In 1736 these plays were banned from the churches by Bishop Teodor Czartoryski, permitting only immobile scenes of a strictly Biblical Christmas. Both the live and puppet shows now were passed down to the people, who included them in the ritual of caroling (kolednicy). Following the ban the performances evolved into a true expression of folk art.
The live Jaselka became a traveling show beginning on St. Stephen’s day (December 26). The Bethlehem locale, was now set in Poland. Original characters and much of the traditional dialogue were preserved, but in the hands of artists and students it became a mirror of community life, with political satire and local anecdotes added in. Key moments were preserved, such as the well- known scene between King Herod and the devil. The devil triumphantly exclaims in retribution for Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents, “Królu Herodzie za twe zbytki, chodz do piekla, bos ty brzydki” (King Herod for your wicked ways come with me to hell because you are deplorable). This scene was extremely popular with the audience.
In literature and theater, the plays were made famous by such authors as Lucjan Rydel (Betlejem Polskie) and Leon Schiller (Szopka Krakowska and Pastoralka), and continue to appear in the repertoire of professional theater companies in Poland to this day.
Throughout the 18th century, native artisans were making crìches that were distinctively Polish in architectural design, folk costume and motif. Each region developed its own unique design, but it was in Kraków that it developed into a high art.
By the 19th century several elements defined the szopka’s shape, finding inspiration in the existing structures of Kraków. The stable’s roof was covered by a second story and was flanked by two towers. The two towers eventually resembled the Kosciól Mariacki (St. Mary’s Church) and the central Renaissance dome was reminiscent of Wawel Castle’s Zygmunt Chapel. By the end of the 19th century the stable was moved to the second floor and bottom floor was filled with figuures of folklore and history.
The outbreak of World War I brought an end to the szopka, when Austrian occupation forces prohibited home-to-home caroling accompanied by a szopka. Due to the change in political climate after Poland had regained its independence in 1918, it seemed this form of folk art would disappear entirely. A Jaselka was staged at a Kraków theater in 1923 and this sparked a revival of sorts. Szopki were made and sold as souvenirs. The city’s municipal authorities decided to save this decaying tradition by announcing the first competition in December of 1937. Eighty-six cribs were entered. With the exception of the wartime period of 1939-1944 the competitions have become an annual holiday tradition with a magnitude of entrants. Kraków hosts the competition in the central Rynek (marketplace) Square. The puppet shows survive to this day as popular entertainment and are included in this event, as well.
“Polish American Heritage Month”
A National Celebration of Polish History, Culture and Pride in Cooperation with the Polish
American Congress and Polonia across America
Since 1608, when the first Polish settlers arrived at Jamestown, VA, Polish people have been an important part of America’s history and culture. In 2014, Polish Americans will mark the 33rd Anniversary of the founding of Polish American Heritage Month, an event, which began in Philadelphia, PA, and became a national celebration of Polish history, culture and pride. During 2014, Poles will mark the 406th Anniversary of the First Polish Settlers who were among the first skilled workers in America. We, therefore, will also Salute All American Workers and urge people to purchase the products and services offered by American workers. Polish Americans will also mark the 235th Anniversary of the death of General Casimir Pulaski, Father of the American Cavalry. For additionalnformation about these historic events and Polish and Polish American history, visit the Museum’s Internet site at: PolishAmericanCenter.com. Information about ways to celebrate Polish American Heritage Month can be obtained by visiting the Polish American Heritage Month Committee’s site atPolishAmericanHeritageMonth.com. On this site you will find a list of “Things To Do During Polish American Heritage Month”, the 2014 coloring contest artwork for schools,and Heritage Month posters that can be downloaded and printed. Copies of the coloring contest artwork can also be obtained by calling the Heritage Month Committee, Monday through Friday between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M. at 215-922-1700.
PACT will be offering some great items this year for the silent auction at the Kielbasa Cook Off on Saturday, Oct. 4, at St. Clements Community Center. All items are Polish . Amber pieces, Polish pottery, books about local Polish history, Polish beer, liqueurs, vodka, Polish t-shirts, amber cut wine glasses, Christmas pieces and much more will be available. So come out to the cook off and enjoy some great kielbasa and check out our Polish items.
Some of t he great auction items for 2014 Kielbasa Cook-Off
Pictured: City Councilman Tom Winiewski, PACT President Stan Machosky,
Toledo Mayor Michael Collins and PACT Vice-President, Matt Zaleski.
From the Toledo Blade, Monday, August 11, 2014:
The second annual Polka Party Picnic offered far more than the expected polka dancing and kielbasa meal at St. Hyacinth Catholic Church on Sunday afternoon.
At the event, the Polish -American Community of Toledo, or PACT, announced plans to launch a $1million capital campaign to raise funds to establish a Toledo area Polish-American Community Center.
“A major issue is that the churches formed by some of the first Poles who came to Toledo are slowly closing”, said Toledo Polish Genealogical Society and PACT member Marge Stefanski. ”Many believe some of the Polish heritage in the community is being lost in the process.”
“We need to keep the heritage going by passing it on to the young crowd,” Stan Machosky, PACT Board President said. “We need a place to assemble to transfer this to the young.”
To read the entire article, go to http://www.toledoblade.com/Culture/2014/08/11/Poles-set-sights-on-1M-center.html
Thanks you to St. Hyacinth and St. Charles for giving PACT this venue to launch this campaign. It is with the interest of the entire Polish population of Toledo and North West Ohio that this endeavor is being started.
In 2009, a group of Poles gathered at Ski’s Restaurant to address some of the needs of the local Polish community. Like some of the other area ethnic groups in the Toledo area, the Poles were witness to a dying heritage, with their old Polish neighborhoods becoming blight-ridden and once popular churches closing. Certainly the future looked bleak.
To address these issues and more, the group formed a new Polish organization — The Polish-American Community of Toledo (PACT). Five years later a lot has changed for the Toledo Poles.
Along with spearheading a litany of events that call attention to the Polish heritage, PACT wants to build a much-needed Polish Community Center for the Toledo area.
“Leading up to this point, PACT has been able to successfully promote the Polish heritage with annual events like our Wagilia Celebration, Kielbasa Klassic Golf Tournament, annual scholarship competition, our Kielbasa Cook-off Competition, and more,” said Stan Machosky, President, PACT. “But now we feel the time has come to try and fulfill a significant part of PACT’s mission — To build a Polish-American Community Center.
When PACT, a Non- Profit 501-C-3 organization, was created in 2009 it had a mission of supporting and furthering the cause of local Polish-American groups and to enhance the lives of local Polish-Americans. PACT wanted its members to help promote, support, and patronize locally owned Polish-American businesses. PACT wants support for Polish-American business owners, and wanted its members to promote, join and support local and national groups and organizations that help promote events that perpetuate Polish culture and traditions. But a key piece of that mission was the building of a Polish-American Community Center that would ultimately house a cultural center, library, youth recreation center, and provide a venue for local Polish American groups to hold their activities.
On Sunday August 10, PACT announced an ambitious capital campaign to raise $1 million to build the Polish-American Community Center.
“When Poles first came to Toledo and settled in their neighborhoods, they built churches that served the function of a Polish community center. As Poles left those neighborhoods, the churches declined in attendance and eventually closed. However the need for a Polish-American Community Center still exists to help promote the Polish heritage,” said Mr. Machosky.
To meet its financial goal, PACT plans a grassroots campaign to reach out to local Polish-Americans, and to seek grants and donations from area corporations. In addition PACT plans an on-line fund raising effort with Indiegogo.
“We want a grassroots campaign to make all area Poles feel like they are part of this development. We also like the idea of an on-line effort which gives us access to Poles and other Polish organizations around the world who may wish to contribute to our effort,” said Mr. Machosky.
PACT says it is hoping to work with a prominent local Pole — Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz — to see what’s available through the Lucas County Land Bank for redevelopment.
Those wishing to make donations can send checks made payable to Polish-American Community of Toledo, P.O. Box 1033, Sylvania, OH 43560. They can also visit the Indiegogo.
American Originals: Northwest Ohio’s Polish Community at Home, Work, Worship, and Play is the latest book to be published by the University of Toledo Press.
The 258 page work presents a glimpse into the history of one of Toledo’s most important ethnic groups.
“The book is a mix of the broader themes that have shaped our community with the actual lives that Polish-Americans recall–sometimes remembered with pain, more often with joy, and always with the respect for the accomplishments of the families, friends and neighbors,” said Timothy Borden, editor of the book. “These are the histories of true American originals, who found a proper home for their ideals in the Polish-American community of northwest Ohio.”
The book includes several chapters by Borden, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University Bloomington. Others with chapters include David Chelminski, Dorothy Stohl, Jane Armstrong-Hudiburg, Sarah Miller, William Samiec, and Margaret Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk.
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur also contributed a chapter on the history of her Polish family, including the story of her father, Steve, who was known in the community as “Kappy.” Kappy began his career as a trucker and produce dealer in the 1930′s, and in the 1950′s, he and his wife Anastasia, opened the Supreme Market in Rossford. The market sold Polish specialty items. Kaptur also recounts several trips she made to Poland to visit the homeland of her ancestors, and how moved she was by the Polish people and the tales of their struggles throughout history.
The book also looks at the artistic expressions of Toledo’s Polish community in its polka music. The chapter by Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk looks at some of the beloved polka bands that played in many venues around Toledo. It includes interviews with some of the bands’ leaders and discusses the evolution of Toledo’s polka music. A listing of polka recordings by Toledo bands is also included. In addition, Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk discusses the influential Toledo Polish music radio show hosted for years by Chet Zablocki, assisted by his wife Helen, and then after Helen’s death, by his second wife, Sharon.
Other chapters look at Polish wedding traditions, the role of local Catholic sisters in educating the new immigrants to Toledo, and the experience of those growing up in Toledo’s two Polish neighborhoods–Kuhschwantz and Lagrinka. “American Originals is an important contribution to Toledo’s history and is also a fascinating read for anyone who is a part of the Polish community, or just an admirer,” Barbara Floyd, director of the UT Press said.
The book is for sale from the UT Press website: www.utoledopress.com, at Barnes & Noble at The University of Toledo, or by contacting Barbara Floyd, at 419-530-2170.
For more information about the book, or to schedule interviews with the authors, contact Floyd.
Congratulations to this year’s PACT/TPA scholarship winners! They are:
Jessica Pietrasz, age 18, of Rossford, Ohio who will be attending Youngstown State University this fall. She is also the recipient of YSU’s Red & White Scholarship. She is active in cross country, volleyball, basketball, track and student council. Jessica will receive the Martin A. Blaszczyk scholarship. It is awarded to the “best” submission as determined by the judges. Martin A. Blaszczyk was the editor of the Lagrange Street News, a monthly newspaper that connected residents and former neighbors of its namesake Polish neighborhood with news, gossip, and community functions. He helped to keep the Polish heritage alive in Toledo.
Rachel Perzynski, age 19, of Toledo. Rachel will be attending DePaul University this fall. She is also a DePaul University Presidential Scholarship winner and has maintained a cumulative 4.0 GPA for 4 years. She is active in Speech and Debate, Migrant Ministry, SJJ Marching Band, dance, school plays and was secretary of the Enviro Club.
Casey Sobota, age 21, of Waterville, Ohio will be graduating from Ohio State University in 2016 with a major in Strategic Communications. Casey is also the recipient of a Scarlet and Grey Scholarship, Anthony Wayne Generals Dispatch Editor Scholarship and a Transformational Program Grant that allowed her to study abroad in Eastern Europe. She is a member of the Public Relation Student Society of American and a regular contributor to “Her Campus” online magazine.
High School category:
William DuPuis, age 14, of Toledo will be attending St. Francis de Sales High School this fall. William is the brother of Joseph DuPuis, a 2013 PACT/TPA Scholarship winner. William is also the recipient of a St. Francis de Sales Scholarship, a GESU music award and he played on the GESU football team 2011-2013.
As in past years, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur will award the scholarships to the winners in August. Thank you to all who applied for these four scholarships.
PACT and Stanley’s Market are once again teaming up for the annual Kielbasa Klassic Golf Scramble. This year, it will be held on Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 at the Giant Oak Golf Course on Lewis Avenue in Temperance Michigan. The starting time is 10:00 AM. The price for the scramble will be the same as in years past: $75 per man or $300 per team. This price includes golf, cart, food, beer and pop, team skins, door prizes, challenge holes and the famous “Kielbasa Klassic” t-shirt! This year, there are 2 ways to register. Just click here to sign up on the PACT site. There you can choose to download the sign up sheet and fill it out and send it with your check to PACT, or go to Kielbasa Klassic’s website and sign up there online. The deadline to enter is July 28th, 2014. Proceeds from this event go to the scholarship fund. Please direct your questions to Tim Paluszak at 419-410-6167. Last year’s winners were: Dave Martin, John Danielski, Jim Carey and Tom Cunningham.
We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day for our bus trip to Hamtramck. Once we arrived, tour guide Greg Kawalski gave our group a tour of St. Florian Church. Then it was on to the bakery to pick up some sweet treats and then to the Polonia Restaurant for a Polish lunch. Eddie Paz serenaded the group with some Polish music on his accordian. After lunch, we visited the Polish Art Center for a talk on amber jewelry, shopka (paper creches) and Polish pottery. Many in the group checked out the Pope John Paul Park and Srodek’s grocery store. Thanks to all who joined PACT on this bus adventure.
Polish Art Center window.
Jan Konoff and Lynn Konoff in front of Srodek’s market.
We found the kiszka. It’s at Srodek’s.
Joan Bittner explaining different types of Polish Pottery.
Part of mural at the Pope John Paul park.
Eddie Paz playing his accordion at the Polonia restaurant.
Ceiling of St. Florian church.
The church of Our Lady of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa.
Altar of St. Florian church made in Italy.
Greg Kawalski giving tour of St. Florian.
Interior of St. Florian.
Statue of Pope John Paul.
Pope John Paul park in Hamtramck.
Tim and Carole Paluszak admiring the choices at New Palace bakery.
On Saturday, March 29, The Polish-American Polish American Community of Toledo (PACT) offered a Pierogi making class. A dozen people showed up to learn the process. It started with PACT showing all the steps and cooking a few, and a taste-test. Then participants were off to try it on their own — with a little PACT supervision and guidance. The event was held in the galley at The Maritime Academy of Toledo. PACT thanks The Maritime Academy of Toledo and their Chef, David Naperala (who is also Polish) for use of their facilities. Here are some pictures and the PACT recipe. Enjoy.
The Polish American Community of Toledo is happy to announce that along with the Toledo Poznan Alliance, we will be awarding four $1,000.00 scholarships to High School/College students based on academics, extra-curricular activities and an essay submitted about “What Having a Polish-American Heritage Means To Me”.
To apply for one of these scholarships, download the scholarship application located on the right. It can be sent to PACT, P.O. Box 1033, Sylvania, OH 43560. The deadline for receiving applications is May 31, 2014.
Anyone can apply for these scholarships, so if you have a family members, or know of someone who would benefit from this, please forward this information on to them.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.
PHOTO: Last year’s scholarship winners, Kassidy Regent, Joseph DuPuis and Emily Howland (winner of the Martin A. Blaszczyk Memorial Scholarship) with Stan Machosky, President of PACT Board of Directors and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur.
Here is a list of events that PACT will offer for the 2014 year. More information about each event will be provided prior to the event.
Pierogi Making Circle (March 29, 2014): Workshop for individuals interested in making pierogi from scratch, led by local talent.
Trip to Hamtramck (May): A day trip to Hamtramck, Michigan to visit St. Florian Church, Polish Art Center, Polish bakery and grocery store and have lunch at one of Hamtramck’s Polish restaurants.
Polish Night at Comerica Park (June 13): Watch the Detroit Tigers against Minnesota at Comerica Park in Detroit. Transportation will be provided to take you to the park to enjoy Polish Night at the ballpark. Get a t-shirt and food voucher with your ticket.
2014 PACT Scholarship: (June 30) Toledo Poznan Alliance will once again team up with PACT to award three scholarships to High School/College students based on academics, extra-curricular activities and an essay submitted about “What Having a Polish-American Heritage Means To Me”.
Thank you to all of the members who renewed their membership and completed the events survey. The top three events that received the most votes were the trip to Hamtramck with a visit to St. Florian church, the Polish art center, lunch at one of the Polish restaurants, and a stop at the Polish grocery store and bakery, the pierogi making circle, and a Polish pre-lenten celebration. We are now putting together our 2014 calendar of events and will post it here once it is complete. PACT is always trying to offer new Polish experiences to its members along with some of our regular popular events such as the Kielbasa Cook Off, Wigilia Celebration and the Kielbasa Klassic Golf Tournament. We always appreciate your feedback and invite you to make suggestions and comments by emailing us at email@example.com.
Inspired by the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution of 1787, the people of Poland formed and adopted the first democratic constitution in Europe on May 3, 1791. This became the second democratic constitution in the world.
The celebration of Christmas by American families is enriched spiritually when time honored “old country” traditional customs are adopted. These practices serve to downplay the secular emphasis that has made of this holy time more of a “sell-ebration”. These customs reemphasize what this great celebration is all about – the proclamation of the “good news” for all humankind of our redemption.
An especially popular custom is the sharing of the “Oplatek” or Christmas wafer, also known as “Anielski Chleb” or Angel Bread.
For the people of Poland and other Western Slavonic nations the “Oplatek” has always had a mystical quality.
Rosemary Chorzempa sure knows her Polish traditions. Luckily she was kind enough to share her knowledge with an audience of eager learners on Tuesday, April 19th, at Ski’s Restaurant in Sylvania. Those who came to hear Mrs. Chorzempa explain some of the Polish traditions of Easter now know how to make a lamb out of butter for Easter dinner. They also know what type of steps go into making decorative Easter eggs (pisanki). Not only do you need to use beeswax and a tool called a kistka, you have to dye your egg with the lightest colors first to the darkest colors. If you don’t, your egg will definitely not come out how you would like it to. While explaining the folk art of pisanki, Mrs. Chorzempa encouraged everyone to gather around her table to get a better look as she demonstrated how to decorate one. She made it look very easy since she has been doing pisanki for many years. She also brought in a woven palm like many of our grandmothers use to make with the palms from Palm Sunday. Unfortunately it is becoming a lost art since parishes now only pass out one frond of palm instead of the four that you need to weave them into works of art.
If anyone would like to attend a pisanki workshop in May given by Mrs. Chorzempa, or for more information on the workshop, please call Ski’s at 419-882-1199. She will be teaching a pisanki workshop on May 10th and 11th at Ski’s Restaurant.
Maslo (Butter) – This dairy product is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny) or a cross. This reminds us of the good will of Christ that we should have towards all things.
Babka (Easter Bread) – A round or long loaf topped with a cross or a fish, symbolic of Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.
Chrzan (Horseradish) – Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds.
Jajka (Eggs) and Pisanki (decorated with symbols of Easter, of life, of prosperity) – Indicates new life and Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb.
Kielbasa (Sausage) – A sausage product, symbolic of God’s favor and generosity.
Szynka (Ham) – Symbolic of great joy and abundance. Some prefer lamb or veal. The lamb also reminds Christians that the Risen Christ is the “Lamb of God.”
Slonina (Smoked Bacon) – A symbol of the overabundance of God’s mercy and generosity.
Sol (Salt) – A necessary element in our physical life. Symbolic of prosperity and justice and to remind us that people are the flavor of the earth.
Ser (Cheese) – Symbolic of the moderation Christians should have at all times.
Candle – Represents Christ as the Light of the World.
Colorful Ribbons and Sprigs of Greenery – are attached to the basket as signs of joy and new life in the season of spring and in celebration of the Resurrection.
Linen Cover – drawn over the top of the basket which is ready for the priest’s visit to the home or the trip to church where it is joined with the baskets of others to await the blessing. The food is then set aside and enjoyed on Easter Sunday
The blessing of the Easter food, or the “Swieconka” is a tradition dear to the heart of every Pole. Being deeply religious, he is grateful to God for all His gifts of both nature and grace, and, as a token of this gratitude, has the food of his table sanctified with the hope that spring, the season of the Resurrection, will also be blessed by God’s goodness and mercy.
Traditions vary from village to village and family to family. They have changed and evolved with each passing generation. Traditionally the food is brought to the church in a basket, often decorated with a colourful ribbon and sometimes sprigs of greenery are attached, with a linen cover drawn over the top (hence “The Traditional Polish Easter Basket”) and blessed by the parish priest on Holy Saturday morning. The food can also be blessed in the home. After the blessing, the food is usually set aside until Easter morning when the head of the house shares the blessed egg, symbol of life, with his family and friends. Having exchanged wishes, all continue to enjoy a hearty meal.
The foods traditionally blessed for Easter can be reduced to three categories:
Easter bread and cakes of all kinds – particularly babka
Meat products, like ham, stuffed veal, suckling pig or lamb, sausage, bacon, etc.;
Dairy products, like butter, cheese (“hrudka” cheese cake), eggs – some shelled, some decorated (“pisanki”); etc.
The blessing of Easter food is one of our most beautiful and most meaningful customs with which our devoted ancestors have enriched us. This centuries old custom is indeed richly symbolic and has a deep liturgical and spiritual meaning. It is one in which the whole family can participate and help prepare. Let us preserve these customs so that they may endure for many generations to come.
All of us can enjoy this beautiful Polish custom by participating at the blessing of the Easter food “Swieconka” at the Polish church nearest you. This is an excellent way to teach the younger members of your family about this treasured Polish tradition. Remember, it is up to us to teach our customs to our children.