Easter is mere hours away, and that calls to mind many memories for me. My family has a lot of traditions around Easter. My immediate family lives in New Jersey, but some of my extended family lives in Indiana. We would always make a yearly “pilgrimage” to go visit them for a week over my sister and my spring break.
That road trip became synonymous with Easter for me. It was quite the endeavor, but it got easier over the years as my sister and I matured. It was a 12 to 14 hour drive (depending on rest stops) with all four of us crammed into a car, and then a week at my grandparents’ house before another 14 hour drive back.
We developed some traditions around that trip. Personally, I’m a very planning-oriented person, and I always have been. I would write up specific packing lists and find excitement in cramming clothes into a suitcase. We would always try to pack the car the night before whenever possible, and I loved to watch my dad play Tetris with all our luggage. I’m not always very good at spatial awareness, so I was pretty impressed by his ability to pack efficiently.
When we were in the car itself, we had some games to play to pass the time. A classic was the alphabet game, which is when you look for each letter on the alphabet, in order, written on surfaces outside of the car along the way. An “A” in a road sign, a “B” on a license plate, and so on. We also played the license plate game. I would print out a blank map of the United States, and bring along a colored pencil(s). As we would drive along, we would keep track of all of the different states we spotted. One year, we even saw a car from Alaska! Most of the eastern states were pretty common, and mid-western states became more frequent as we traveled along. I distinctly remember, when my sister and mom fell asleep in the car, my dad would whisper state names to me as he saw them so that I could keep track without waking them up.
During our week with my family, one of my favorite traditions was the Polish tradition of Święconka. Święconka, which we pronounce svfie-con-ka, is a pre-Easter food blessing. On Holy Saturday, we would bring baskets full of our food for the next day to my grandparents’ church. Their priest, Fr. Len, would lead us in a hymn, reflect on the meaning, symbolism, and history of Święconka, and then pray the blessing. The prayer was said in Polish, and holy water was sprinkled over the baskets using a straw brush. It’s been a staple in my Easter tradition for as long as I can remember.
When I started college, my spring break no longer coincided with Easter, so I stayed at school while the rest of my family traveled. This meant that for the first time in my life, I wasn’t going to go to the food blessing! So I took matters into my own hands, so to speak.
I had been building up a stash of chocolates throughout Lent (since I had given it up that year). I gathered all of my goodies, and pulled out my holy water. I looked up an English translation of a traditional Polish blessing, and prayed over my chocolate. Then I sprinkled some holy water over my stash.
I sent a picture of my “DIY Święconka” to my sister, and a few hours later, she sent a picture of the real Święconka from Indiana. (Included below)
I don’t have quite such an impressive chocolate stash this year, but I’m still going to bless what little I have. It’s important to me to stay grounded in my traditions, even if they have to change a bit over time. This is also a great way for me to still feel connected with my family, even when I cannot be beside them.