Saturday, April 11, 2009
The blessing of the baskets
Easter eggs (dyed pink or blue or yellow), chocolate bunnies, slices of bread, shakers of salt and surprising hunks of kielbasa sausage.
These are some of the things in the baskets that people bring to St. Michael's Church on St.Viateur the Saturday before Easter. Hundreds of people of all ages and shapes come carrying baskets of food to be blessed by the priest, a Polish Catholic tradition.
All day long, they troop down into the church basement where long tables are arranged in a horseshoe shape. They place their baskets on the table and take a seat. On the hour, two candles are lighted and from the back of the room, a priest in a black gown appears.
Every hour, the 60 chairs arranged around the horseshoe are filled. For the blessing of the baskets ceremony there is standing room only.
I ask what the priest says in the Polish ceremony that lasts about 10 minutes.
"My mind wandered," confessed one man who was there with his family. "Something about the Eucharist."
After the priest finishes speaking, he dips a small straw broom into a metal urn and walks around tables, flicking drops of holy water on the baskets.
Then everyone collects their baskets and covers them up with lace doilies, or cloth napkins, or plastic Toys "R" Us bags and files out of the basement.
A few of them go up the outdoor steps to the lofty church sanctuary.
One woman steps outside and says, "We did it!" to her family, as though it was an exciting first.
For Szandra, who is 9, it's a holiday ritual. Her basket contains small sausages, carrots, an orange, an onion, a decorated egg and a stuffed pink bunny.
As quickly as they came, people leave, with their blessed baskets of coloured eggs and sausage, as if they're all going on a chilly picnic.