Saturday, March 31, 2018

The blessing of the baskets

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Today is Holy Saturday, the day for the Blessing of the Baskets. This is an annual tradition that is apparently common in Polish churches but not universal to the Catholic Church, since a friend of German extraction from about forty miles away had never heard of it. Every year, families will gather together a sampling of the foods to be eaten on Easter Sunday - including, but not limited to, hard-boiled eggs, kielbasa (Polish sausage, fresh or smoked, though for the basket, usually smoked), ham, bread, salt, butter (sometimes in the shape of a lamb), horseradish, cakes, and chocolate candy. These baskets will be taken to the parish church or parish center and the priest will pronounce a blessing over them. The book of blessings specifically calls out many of the different items that traditionally are included in the basket.

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The past few years I have taken our basket to the house of one of the church deacons, a family friend who lives in the neighborhood. There, along with other friends and relatives, we get our basket blessed in a short form of the ritual.

The blessing was scheduled for noon today. My mom wanted me to go out before then to Sanitary Bakery to pick up two lamb cakes and two loaves of walnut bread. I had hoped to get out to the bakery bright and early, maybe a little after 9:00 this morning, but things kept popping up. As it was, I didn't get out of the house until 11:00, taking the basket to be blessed with me, just in case there was a line.

There was a line.

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The routine was: you would pull up at the bakery and see the crowd, and wonder what everyone was doing there. Then, as you got out of your car, you realized that people were waiting in line. You would go to join the line and notice that everyone else was holding a number. So then you would go into the bakery, see how crowded it was inside, and wonder if the wait would we worth it. Then you took your place in the back of the line and began to make small talk with friends, neighbors, and total strangers.

The line was never fewer than twelve people long outside, with another six or so inside. I eventually found my way inside the place. I added a loaf of rye bread to my order, and had to dig deep for extra money. I got out of the bakery, carefully loaded the car - lamb cakes easily lose their heads - and grabbed my camera to take some photos. I pulled away from the bakery at ten minutes of noon, and got out of the car at the deacon's house just in time.

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Sanitary Bakery - which lies, fun fact, directly on the 76 degrees West line of longitude - shares a parking lot with Saint Francis Joseph's church, now closed and falling into disrepair. (Saint Francis was demolished years ago.)
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The Lincoln School, directly across the street from the deacon's house. Note the swollen buds on the tree, getting ready to unfurl their leaves.

Today was an absolutely gorgeous day, crisp and cold, warm in the sunlight, the cloudless sky varying intensities of azure. It was one of those days you just want to bottle and preserve forever.

Maybe, with this blog post, in some small way I have.

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