At Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Easter baskets aren’t just for candy. The Polish tradition of bringing Easter foods to church on Holy Saturday is known as Swienconka, or “The Blessing of the Baskets.” Our Lady of Sorrows Church in South Orange has adopted this tradition and taken it a step further: the blessing is followed by an egg hunt. This year, as in the past, the blessing and egg hunt took place on Holy Saturday, April 11.
Tradition dictates that Easter breakfast is the end of Lent, a time when many Christians deny themselves certain foods. Thus, the Easter meal is a celebration with foods that symbolize the season. Eggs, for example, are a symbol of new life. Salt symbolizes prosperity, while a loaf of round bread reminds believers of the Eucharistic meal. Lambs made of butter, available locally at Pathmark, are also traditional Eastern European fare, and symbolize the Good Shepherd.
Traditionally, such foods were brought to the church in linen-lined baskets for blessing by the parish priest. However, Our Lady of Sorrows invites parishioners to “bring your own interpretation of the Easter Breakfast,” according to Monsignor Robert Emery.
Indeed, this year’s churchgoers, dressed in Easter hats and rain jackets, brought brightly-colored baskets filled with candy, decorated eggs and lambs made of plaster and clay to Sunday school classrooms, as well as the traditional fare. No matter; the priest bestowed blessings on all, especially the children, in the congregation.
The blessing was followed by baskets of another sort, as children were invited to hunt for eggs and Easter candy. Normally, this hunt takes place outside, behind the church, but the Easter Bunny gave into this spring’s rainy weather conditions, and eggs were hidden in the church basement. Organized by Margaret Gray, the hunt was divided into areas for those aged 4 and under, and older children. The Easter Bunny made an appearance, graciously helping younger children gather treats and posing for numerous photos.
At the same time children gathered treats and paused to wish Msgr. Emery a happy Easter, volunteers distributed holiday food from the OLS Food Pantry. As children walked through the rainy churchyard with laden baskets, some rattling the plastic eggs and speculating about their contents, adults left with bags full of donated hams, Girl Scout cookies and baby food. It was a poignant reminder that OLS serves the community spiritually and practically; no one left the church empty-handed.