Easter in Polish Families


These and many other memories are the part of our national charisma. Especially, before Easter, many of people who have been born in the United States in Polish families and raised surrounded by the spirit of Polish tradition, think about their roots and the way of cultivating Polish memories. Despite the fact that for many Polish families in the USA, Easter is a matter of personal taste, today most still exchange Easter baskets and hunt for Easter eggs and have a ritual Easter Morning meal. Our guests come from families with Polish roots. Celebrating Easter has been a very important element in their lives since they were children. How do our guests celebrate and cultivate Easter tradition? Will they pass the essence of Easter to the next generation?

How does your family usually celebrate Easter? Do you prepare Easter baskets, decorate eggs, and go to a church to have them blessed?

Stephanie Nicole Tucker: Ever since I was a little girl, my family and I always celebrated Easter in a special way. Easter was always a family-oriented celebration where everyone got together for the decorating of the eggs and baskets, going to church and having them blessed, as well as returning for breakfast. It all starts with fasting on Good Friday and coloring the eggs with different designs. On Saturday morning my family comes over and we all decorate our baskets, which hold a variety of delicious symbolic foods such as sausage or ham, round bread, salt and pepper, a sugar and butter lamb, and of course the eggs (pisanki).
At around 9 a.m. we all walk together to St. James Church for the blessing. Sunday morning our whole family attends the Resurrection Mass at 6 a.m. and then returns to my house for the best part of all – breakfast with the blessed food from the basket.

Basia (Staszel) Emano: We try to continue our Polish traditions. We prepare a traditional Polish Easter basket with items like Polish ham, eggs, sausage, butter, salt, bread. On Saturday, we usually go to St. Hyacinth Basi-lica and the priest blesses our Easter basket. On Easter Sunday, we go to mass and then to the home of a family member and we eat our blessed food and eat traditional Easter Polish dishes.

Margaret Zapalski: Our family is VERY traditional when it comes to Polish holiday traditions. One of my cousins has a „Pisanki Party” every year. All the ladies—family and friends–get together at her home and create our own versions of pisanki using age-old methods.
I keep mine in the refrigerator all year long and display my growing collection in the dining room every year.
We still take a basket to church for blessing on Saturday morning, just like when we were kids. On Easter morning the whole family gathers for breakfast, which includes Biały Barszcz, eggs, wedlina, ćwikła and all the fixings. My family loves food and we are all gourmet cooks, so later in the evening, whoever is hosting the holiday will bring out a grand dinner. We eat, drink and laugh toge-ther from morning to night.

Which Easter tradition go you like the most and why?

Stephanie Nicole Tucker: My favorite Easter tradition is the idea that the whole family gets together and enjoys a lovely breakfast. Celebrating the holidays with your family and friends is the most important thing. Although the coloring of the eggs and getting dressed up is fun, especially when you’re a kid, sharing the moment with the people you love is priceless.

Blessing the Easter baskets at the Polish Highlanders house in Chicago.

Basia (Staszel) Emano: Dressing up and getting the Easter baskets blessed. The children love that part. I like going to mass.

Margaret Zapalski: Basket-blessing is my favorite Easter tradition. It is the essence of Polish Easter to me because it is a tradition that sets us apart from other cultures. We attend a blessing ceremony in an American church in Evanston (where my family moved when we came to the U.S.). This is probably the most untraditional part of the holiday for us because it is con-ducted in a very different way than in the Polish churches, which tend to be blessing „factories.” At our church a group of 50-100 gathers from a variety of cultures (mostly Eastern Europeans, with Poles being the largest group), the priest asks each family what they are most thankful for, says several prayers and blesses our baskets. It is a warm, reflective ceremony that makes you stop in the rush of holidays and really think about your blessings.

Why do you think, for the young people like you born in US, raised in a Polish family, it is important to keep cultivating the Polish tradition?

Stephanie Nicole Tucker: I think it is very important to pass down the Polish traditions and values to further generations. Being born in the United States, there is a different culture surrounding you, and to be able to reco-gnize two customs is great. It gives the opportunity to choose what you like most from each. Even though I wasn’t born in Poland, I have a large family there and I want to know the background, where my parents and grandparents came from.

For many young people like me, it is good to experience traditions that have been passed down for many generations back in history. Even though a person doesn’t choose to follow a specific idea in their future, at least it keeps them open-minded and a different perspective. The way holidays are celebrated in the Polish tradition is beautiful. I am very proud to come from a Polish family.

Basia (Staszel) Emano: For me, as a native of Poland, it is critical to keep the traditions for my children, so they know their roots. Even though my husband is Catholic, his family is not (even though Philippines are mostly Catholic). His family spends Sunday celebrating their own traditions and we, as a family, honor that. But God is important in our lives and the children look forward to that time (Easter). They know about the Easter bunny, but they know that Jesus died and was resurrected on that day and that is more important to them. It is for this reason that the Polish traditions are important in our home. And we are proud of that. My husband celebrates that tradition with us too.

Margaret Zapalski: Maintaining one’s culture and traditions gives each of us a sense of place in this world—it’s what makes each of us unique and at the same time demonstrates a sense of belonging to a group, a collective identity. Because of Poland’s history in the last 200 years, and particularly our role in the world, specifically in the U.S., I am a strong believer that Poles MUST maintain our traditions, promote our culture and share our history so that others learn what a strong, beautiful and vital people we are.

Time is passing and many of old Easter traditions have been forgotten. But, it is very important that Polish hospitality and the Easter tradition of sharing and spending time with the families have survived. It is reborn with each new generation, very often in different forms, but has never changed in essence.

 M. Olejnik- Polish News