I’ve always been fascinated by other religions, nationalities, and holiday traditions. For a while, it was hard to understand that not everyone had the same Easter morning rituals as my family. Sure, there were egg hunts and treat-filled baskets, but it was so much more than that.
Easter has always been one of my favorite celebrations. Although the traditions have evolved slightly over the last few years, they remain rooted in the spirit of my great-grandmother. And (other than the true meaning of Easter, of course), the highlight of the day is the bread we make for breakfast.
My granny used to make fabulous Easter bread. The recipe was written down on two sides of a little white index card with a pink flower, but she never had to reference it. It’s a simple combination of everyday items – flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, milk, eggs, and yeast.
Granny was very finicky about the whole baking process. Ingredients were gently folded into each other; the dough was never punched, but lightly kneaded; she barely spoke while making it. I remember how she always let me taste the flour/sugar mixture to make sure it was sweet enough. She let the dough rise, and it sometimes tripled in size. The result was a perfectly sweet and dense, and just delicious bread.
Now, it’s a bit different. My nanny has inherited the bread baking responsibility, and I think she worries too much about making it the same exact way with the same exact results. But, if I’m honest, I think hers comes out better – sweeter, lighter, and just tastier.
We’ve kept the tradition of baking on Good Friday morning. Since it’s a fasting day, you’re not supposed to eat between meals, but I always manage a few bites because not much compares to the taste of freshly baked bread straight from the oven!
We usually make a few large loaves and a bunch of small roll-ups filled with apricot preserves (my favorite!), cinnamon and sugar, or honey and pecans or walnuts. I’m partial to the little rolls.
The Blessing of the Baskets
When I was younger, we used to go to St. Joseph’s Church (a Polish church) to get our baskets blessed every Holy Saturday. I enjoyed this. We would bring pretty baskets with our bread, colored eggs, butter lamb, horseradish, ham, and kielbasa. My nanny outfitted them with pretty ribbons and doilies. The priest would say a few words and then sprinkle holy water on the food so that it was ready to eat on Easter morning.
We don’t do this anymore, but I wish we did because it is what made the breakfast even more special.
Instead of an Easter lunch or dinner, we always have breakfast. It consists of paczki (Polish cream or jelly-filled donuts), pastries, our bread, colored eggs, cold ham, cold kielbasa, and lots of horseradish. I absolutely LOVE this meal and cherish it because we only have it once a year.
How do you celebrate with your family?