Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Easter Celebrations In Years Past!

Easter is fast approaching and I am sure your plans for family gatherings are well underway.  Your family may have dinner or brunch reservations as a way to celebrate without all the fuss of cooking a huge home dinner.  Or you may be continuing a long standing tradition of a huge dinner at home with family and friends after a week of Easter and Lenten activities.  The table will be set with the good china and crystal and beautiful flowers.  There will, of course, be the bowl of dyed Easter eggs and a chocolate bunny or two. No matter how you choose to celebrate Easter it will certainly be different than when my Mother-in-law, Alina Zeranski, grew up in Poland.           

In her cookbook, THE ART OF POLISH COOKING, she lovingly wrote of her Easter customs and traditions.  Here is some of what she wrote:

"Poland is predominantly a Catholic country, and Lent was always observed seriously.  Two or three meatless days were a common practice. "

"The last week of Lent was dedicated to prayer, spring cleaning, and preparation of the biggest feast of the year-Easter Luncheon.  With women so busy, and the whole household in a terrible turmoil, husbands loved to sneak our with friends to one of the numerous excellent Polish restaurants "for a little fish." But as the old saying goes "a fish loves to swim"; the opportunity was provided by washing it down with vodka."

"Polish children love Easter no less than Christmas, and by no means is it a smaller holiday.  There is the tradition of visiting several churches on Good Friday.  Each church presents a tomb with a figure of Jesus Christ lying among thousands of hyacinths and tulips.  Canaries hidden in the greenery chirp their delicate songs.  Little maids in white veils, boy scouts and soldiers keep guard at the tomb."

"Dinner on Good Friday consisted of just Herring with boiled potatoes or vegetable barley soup.  The evening was spent in coloring eggs.  In the Polish countryside, it was customary to decorate them with beautiful flowery designs."

"Easter dishes were not tasted even on Saturday, but the house already cleaned, smelled of fresh wax and hyacinths, the traditional Polish Easter flower. Pussy willows in tall vases decorated each room. Samples of Easter were put in a basket: a few eggs, salt, butter, sausage, a piece of pate, a few slices of babka, and mazurkas (Easter cakes). Covered with a white napkin, it was taken to the church for blessing." On Saturday afternoon the the food was ready and the table was prepared. "At the middle of the table a little, white sugar lamb was placed as the symbol of Jesus, with a little red banner and sugar flowers on the stand.  Next to the lamb was a bowl of colored eggs and hyacinths.  In the countryside the lamb was often made of butter or baked from yeast baba dough.

The dishes of the cold meats and relishes occupied the front of the table: a huge baked ham, rolls of sausages, a roast pig, a turkey or goose, large pieces of roast beef, pork loin, or veal."

"At the other end of the table stood the tall Easter babas silvery with sweet icing, a rich cheese cake with raisins, and endless varieties of thin squares of mazurkas."

The food remained untouched until the family returned from church around noon on Sunday. "Before everyone was seated, mother took a plate with quartered Easter eggs blessed in church, and approached everyone in the room offering a piece, wishing good health and happiness." As you can imagine with that much food, Easter luncheon was an endless affair and no one went away hungry.

No matter how or where you choose to celebrate your Easter meal, I wish you and your families a blessed and happy holiday.

Both of our cookbooks, POLISH CLASSIC RECIPES and POLISH CLASSIC DESSERTS are full of recipes you can prepare for your Easter Celebration.

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