Focus on the Święconka basket of a Polish quartet
The following four people will settle for nothing less than the best when it comes to carrying out the Polish tradition. I heard there was even a slight internal fight in the band years ago, maybe a testament to their deep desire for Polonia! In any case, special thanks to Josephine Perkowski and Stella Lipinski from Elm Park in Staten Island, NY, the southern tip of our state’s Polonia, Stephen Borowczak and his wife from Dutchess County, NY and Father. Matteusz Zielinski of Lublin, Poland, who despite currently being tired recovering from illness, insisted on keeping his spot as a contributor to this year’s team.
Let’s take a look at what our panel of experts recommends putting in your Święconka basket for the Holy Saturday blessing, and what these items mean. This is a big occasion for all Poles, so be sure to carefully select and prepare your basket using all of the following traditional favorites, but feel free to include your own additional items to stand out in the crowd.
Oh yes, one last point that is rarely covered by other basket makers… the weight. Our panel once again recommends a hefty six pounds worth of ingredients to fill your basket! Not really surprising, as a heavier basket may mean you put more effort into it, which may mean Easter carries a lot of weight for you! Let’s fully prepare our baskets with:
Bread (Chleb) – Symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life! Sliced or unsliced, but round in shape rather than oval. Definitely should be rye bread. White bread is not allowed! Syrena’s of Brooklyn or New Warsaw Bakery would be excellent choices.
Butter (Maslo) – Preferably in the shape of a lamb if you can, reminding us of both Jesus as the Lamb of God and Christ’s reference to God’s care for animals in his teachings. Remember to keep it cool and don’t substitute margarine please!
Sausage (Kielbasa) – Smoked and fresh. The variation of spices and flavors symbolizes the bounty of our Lord. It must be picked up at your local Polish grocery store. Please do not include substitutes like Hillshire Farms on this occasion.
Horseradish (Chrzan) – Directly symbolizes the passion of Christ from Gethsemane to Calvary and the Resurrection. The white and red types must be included in your shopping cart. It is important to place them side by side, not separate them.
Small Ham (Szynka Wielkanocny) – A good brand name like Krakus will do (make sure it’s unboxed), available at your local grocery store or supermarket. The ham is the symbol of happiness and abundance.
Mustard (Musztardowy) – Flavor, flavor, flavor! There are a few imported brands, but savvy Pol-Ams know that the Kosciusko brand (and that’s how they spell it) tastes pretty authentic. No Gulden branding on this occasion, you can save it for the upcoming Yankees vs Red Sox baseball game.
Sweet cake (Babka) – Definitely a must. The mainstay of Polish cuisine. Plain or raisins are best, as our experts advise against bringing cheese-filled or fancy types. Two small babki make a nicer touch than one big one.
Eggs (Jajka) – Symbolizes the resurrection of Christ! According to the committee’s guideline, you should have a minimum of seven eggs, and one must be uncolored white. Under no circumstances should you leave your home without a white egg in your Święconka basket. Go home! Just kidding, but grade A wide is the norm. Unlike last time, brown eggs are allowed and identify with the land.
Smoked Bacon (Slonina) optional – Symbolizing the infinite mercy of God. Only 3-5 slices will suffice. Keep it away from kielbasa.
Sea Salt (Sol) – Must be sea salt, not the “iodine-inspired” variety. Plus, sea salt is healthier for you. “We are the salt of the earth”, they said.
Cheese (Ser) – Often ball-shaped. This can be tricky, but try not to include any Swiss, cheddar, or speckled cheeses.
Wine (Winny) optional – A small bottle of your favorite table wine will add a nice touch of class. Remember the wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine, his first miracle.
Candy – What would Easter be without candy? Fun all around and eye-catcher. A cornucopia of colors works best in the form of jellybeans, marshmallow chicks and, if you’re daring, a sturdy chocolate bunny a foot and a half tall!
Greenery – small sprigs of boxwood, or bukszpan, to complete the “earth and open air” opening and warming occasion. Alternatively, celery stalks can be substituted.
Holy water – a small bottle to bless the house, people and pets in our life!
Ribbon – make sure it’s colorful, maybe borrowed from your prettiest Krakowianka outfit!
White lace – used as base linen and cover. Preferably one from Łowicz, Poland, delicate with ruffled edges.