DANBURY – Blessings were bestowed on Easter food baskets at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church honoring an age-old Easter tradition.
“The annual Blessing of the Food is a Polish custom,” said Pastor Fr. Norm Guilbert, to more than two dozen families participating in the noon-time service. “It’s a simple tradition that is very special that gathers people together,” he said.
As families entered the little church on the hill, they placed Easter baskets decorated with embroidered linens, lace and ribbons and filled with food including eggs, butter, bread and Kielbasa, at the foot of the altar.
“These meals will be going on to your Easter table, so we should share in the blessing,” he said, likening it to a communal meal and encouraging the congregation to reflect on the meaning of community during their Easter feast.
The Slavic tradition, where baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday, is very important to many people in this parish, which was established as a church for the Polish community in 1925.
Cynthia Rozanski, who used to attend the service with her parents before their death more than three years ago, continues to make the 40-minute drive from Stamford to her parents’ home parish for the Blessing of the Food, in honor of them.
Parishioner Anthony Scalzo greeted the families as they entered the church.
“The blessing of the food means a lot because it’s something that has been done for years,” said Scalzo, who has been a member of the parish for more than four decades.
Scalzo recalled that in the early years of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, priests would go to the houses of parishioners to bless the food.
Fellow parishioner, 92-year-old Loretta Kunicki, who was baptized at the church, said she remembers priests visiting her childhood home to bless the food at Easter. On this day, she brought a basket of eggs to be blessed. She said Kielbasa is her favorite and she was looking forward to sharing the Easter meal with her family in New Fairfield.
“It means the beginning of life, that’s why we have our food blessed,” she said.
The Easter Bread symbolizes Christ the Living Bread to feed us on our journey through life, the Easter Ham, Kielbasa and meats are a symbol of sacrificial animals of the Old Testament and Easter Eggs are a symbol of new life, abundance, and prosperity. All food that is blessed must be consumed and not thrown away.
At the conclusion of the service, Fr. Guilbert was gifted a spectacularly decorated egg and a chocolate bunny. He told those gathered, “I wish you all a very, very happy Easter and a delicious meal to go along with it.”