Friday, March 29, 2013

Breakfast is a Catholic Thing

In the old days, all of Lent was a time of austere fasting. For the most part, people did not eat breads, meats, dairy products or sweets. Grains and vegetables were usually all that was eaten until after the Easter Vigil.

Of course, that's not the "rule" anymore. However, there are some nice little vestiges of those days as we approach the Vigil.

Being in a University town, I have an international parish. Every Holy Saturday morning, some of the Polish parishioners, and now those of Polish ancestry, bring their baskets to be blessed. It is an old custom from Eastern Europe, mostly Poland, called swieconka ("Easter basket blessing").

If anyone would like to make up their own basket, here's a little guide.

The vestiges of old Lent are in the basket:

Maslo / Butter : This dairy product is often shaped into a lamb (Baranek Wielkanocny), reminding us of the goodness of Christ that we should have toward all things.
Chleb / Easter Bread: A round rye loaf topped with a cross, symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Chrzan / Horseradish : Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds, but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection. (May be white or pink [w/grated red beets].)
Jajka / Eggs and Pisanki: Indicate new life and Christ's Resurrection from the Tomb.
Kielbasa / Sausage: A spicy sausage of pork products, indicative of God's favor and generosity.
Szynka / Ham: Symbolic of great joy and abundance. (In addition to the large ham cooked for the Easter Meal, often a special small ham, called the Szynka Wielkanocny) is purchased specially for Swieconka basket.)
Slonina / Smoked Bacon: A symbol of the over abundance of God's mercy and generosity.
Sol / Salt: So necessary an element in our physical life, that Jesus used its symbolism: "You are the salt of the earth."
Ser / Cheese: Shaped into a ball, it is the symbol of the moderation Christians should have.
Holy Water: Holy water is used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in
religious rituals throughout the year.

A candle, often marked like the Paschal Candle lit during the Easter Vigil, is inserted into the basket to represent Christ, Light of the World.
A colorful ribbon and sometimes sprigs of greenery are attached.
The linen cover is drawn over the top and is ready for the trek to the blessing.

Note that the foods are butter, bread, eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, and cheese. We usually associate these foods with one particular meal: Breakfast. The meal that is taken when we "BREAK THE FAST" (spelling it out for ya).

So whenever someone has breakfast, it's a meal that has Catholic origins.  

That's right, the Church made up breakfast.

IHOP, you're welcome.