Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Polish Easter in Detroit, Michigan

Top row l. to r. - Vincent Wacht, Lillian (Wacht) Janowski, Edward Wacht.
Bottom row l. to r. - Adam Janowski, Jr., Marie Wacht.
Having been raised Catholic, the many traditions associated with Easter were almost more significant than Christmas.

On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, palm leaves were distributed at Mass and afterwards were often woven into intricate braided shapes and hung inside homes, usually on a crucifix or religious picture. After Palm Sunday all of the statues in the church were covered in purple tunics indicating that the disciples of Christ had fled Jerusalem.

On Holy Thursday we went to church to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples and for the blessing of the feet ceremony where the priest washed the feet of the poor. On the following day, Good Friday, we spent the hours from 12 noon to 3 in church or in silence at home. It was a double torture as mom used that time to cook all of the meat for the Easter Sunday meal. No meat would be eaten Good Friday, so the smell of ham baking and keilbasa cooking was excruciating!

On Saturday we took an Easter basket lined in linen and lace to the church to be blessed. It contained pieces of all of the food--ham, sausage, salt pork, rye bread, farmer's cheese, dyed hard-boiled eggs, horseradish and salt and pepper, that would be served on Easter Sunday. It also often included a butter carving in the shape of a lamb. The basket would be blessed so that we would have food in abundance throughout the following year.

Easter Sunday service was a glorious celebration! Everyone was dressed in new clothes and the church smelled of Easter lilies and incense. As you can see from the picture above I (the little boy with the fedora) was always a snappy dresser!

The service was followed by a festive and filling breakfast. We ate a white, slightly sour, soup, with cubes of meat, bread, cheese and eggs in the soup. Horseradish was often added to spice it up. If red horseradish was used the soup would turn a pretty pink color.

We almost always went to my visit my grandmother on my mother's side in Detroit. The dinner meal was another serving of the same type of soup followed by cake. The cake was often made by my Aunt Hattie and would be in the shape of a lamb covered in white icing and coconut. If she wasn't bringing the cake someone would by a cake from Sanders Bakery in Detroit. It would be yellow cake with buttercream icing garnished with crushed hazelnuts. We'd often add an Easter "nest" of green colored coconut with a couple of chocolate malted milk "robin's eggs".

In my next post I will be providing you with a few recipes--my sister Barbara's recipe for a traditional Easter soup, my own interpretation of it, and a recipe for an as close as I can get version of Sander's buttercream icing which did not include butter or cream.

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