Easter foods blessed at St. Mary Church, Jewett City

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Mon., Apr. 1, 2013
Easter food blessing, St. Mary Church in Jewett City
St. Mary Pastor Father Ted Tumicki sprinkles holy water on the baskets full of Easter foods. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

The aroma of smoked ham and hard-boiled eggs blended with the sweet smell of chocolate bunnies at St. Mary Church in Jewett City on March 30 as the parish marked the annual blessing of Easter foods.

Pastor Father Ted Tumicki, who is also pastor of Sts. Thomas and Anne of Voluntown and St. Catherine of Siena in Preston, blessed baskets of food brought by members of all three parishes in a ceremony that traces its roots to Eastern European tradition. After a brief scripture reading and prayer, he sprinkled holy water on the foods that parishioners would enjoy the next day at Easter Sunday dinner.

Jane Yonta of Jewett City had a basketful of colored eggs that she decorated in the traditional Eastern European way, with wax resist designs. “I used food colors and the head of pin,” she said. The pinhead tool was used like a pen to draw designs on the eggshells with melted wax, a technique she used to share with children when she taught school some years ago. “I think now I’d probably get [in trouble] with candles burning in school, but the kids loved it,” she said.

Yonta said that the foods included in the baskets “are an ancient tradition taken from Jewish custom.” Her daughter, Kim Yonta Aronow, explained that bitter herbs – usually horseradish – along with eggs, a symbol of new life, and salt, recalling tears of sorrow, figure prominently in the Jewish Passover observance and appear in the Easter baskets as well.

However, the meats in the traditional baskets mark a break with Jewish custom. Instead of the paschal lamb from the Old Testament story, the Easter baskets contain ham and Polish sausage, traditionally made with pork, to signal the faith of the New Testament.

St. Mary parishioner Donna Wisniewski said that the baskets also usually include bread and a lamb fashioned out of butter, both symbols of Jesus. Her basket included babka, a traditional Polish sweet bread made with eggs.

Kathy Luty, another parishioner, said that in the old days the priest visited parishioners’ homes to perform the blessing. Now, the ceremony typically takes place in church on the day before Easter Sunday.

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