Holy week customs that go back at least 1000 years are still being observed in the Delaware Valley. Many people of Polish or other Eastern European descent make a basket of Easter foods to be blessed on Holy Saturday and take it to their parish priest. This custom is a very important part of a Holy Week rich in traditions passed on from one generation to the next. This basket was called Swieconka and usually has food symbolic of the Easter holiday.
A Paschal Lamb, representing the Lamb of God, in Polish: baranek, can be made from cake, bread or butter and is often centerpiece of the food brought to the church. Eggs, both decorated and plain are a symbol of new life or rebirth. Meat, usually ham or sausage (kielbasa), Horseradish, bitter herbs that signify the bitterness of the suffering of Christ, and salt a Polish sign of hospitality are all found in this basket. Greenery, usually in the form of boxwood or branches of pussy willow represents the awakening of the earth. Bread is always in the basket, both a symbol of communion, the bread of the last supper and the traditional sweet breads or Babe.
This basket is often taken to the local church on Holy Saturday around noon, but in old times the Parish priest often visited each home and thus blessed the food and the house. Today many local parishes still observe this custom, but probably the most traditional and well attended food blessing is at one of the oldest Polish parishes in the the Delaware valley will be doing this blessing at on Holy Saturday. Often people will drive long distances to revisit the church of their grand parents and parents and keep the tradition. In some parishes the tradition begins a new when Polish families ask the priest to have a food blessing Holy Saturday.