Post Eagle Newspaper

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Jun 12, 2024

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Sharing Swieconka With America?

By Robert Strybel
Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

French Mardi Gras, the Mexican piñata, the German Oktoberfest, not to mention St Patrick’s Day festivities are examples of customs that have broken out of their original ethnic framework and into the American mainstream. On a local basis, that might also be said of Chicago’s Third of May and New York’s Pułaski Day parade.

To achieve wider acceptance two things are needed: a custom must have general appeal and receive sufficient exposure. The two best-known Polish customs are the opłatek-sharing of Christmas Eve and the Holy Saturday food-blessing ritual, and both are easy to like. But mainly those non-Polonians who have married into PolAm families or attended a community Opłatek Dinner have come to appreciate the Wigilia traditon.

For several reasons, the Święconka seems to have even more going for it. It takes place in spring, when all nature has come alive, and it goes over well with youngsters. Young kids really enjoy coloring Easter eggs, assembling Easter baskets, taking them to church for the blessing and visiting the Boży Grób (Christ’s tomb). And many non-PolAms have found the custom to be warm, homey, familial and pleasingly quaint or sum the traditions up with: “This is really cool!”   

Considerable confusion arose in the post-Vatican II 1960s and ‘70s, when some younger of the priests began discarding beautiful old statuary and hand-carved Stations of the Cross as well as such time-honored customs as Święconka and Boży Grób. When parishioners grudgingly accepted such alleged “reforms”, they effectively deprived the next generation of those beautiful old traditions.  In some cases, PolAm parishioners stood up for their heritage and were even willing to transfer to another parish to back their demands.

In the  ethnically mixed parishes which predominate nowadays, the Święconka ´is alive, well and gaining new adherents wherever it is practiced. The point is to introduce or re-introduce it where it is not. A request by just one member of the parish may not have much impact, but  several parishioners proposing the food-blessing custom could make a difference. Especially nowadays, when pastors try not to needlessly alienate their shrinking congregations.

Isn’t sharing Święconka and other ethnic customs what America is really all about? Isn’t the true spirit of this nation of immigrants best reflected by pluralism which enriches the national mosaic, bringing people together and closer to God through diverse cultural values and traditions? The Święconka is an excellent case in point!