April 14, 2006

2006 Easter Supplement

Holy Trinity Parish continues longtime Slovenian tradition

By Mary Ann Wyand

The blessing of food for Easter is a longtime Slovenian tradition that has been carried on at Holy Trinity Parish, 2618 W. St. Clair St., in Indianapolis since its founding 100 years ago.

Sue Ann Yovanovich, the pastoral associate at the Indianapolis West Deanery parish, said food will be blessed at 5:30 p.m. on Holy Saturday, April 15, in the church, and the public is welcome to join parishioners for the ceremony.

“It is the custom of the Slovenians to take symbolic foods to be blessed in church, which is then the first to be eaten, breaking the 40-day Lenten fast,” she explained. “The food which is blessed will be the food used for breakfast on Easter Sunday morning.”

Special foods are placed in a basket with a handle and covered with a white linen cloth.

The basket is filled with meat—ham, pork or beef—to symbolize the body of Jesus, she said, as well as sausage, which is usually homemade and represents the ropes that bound Jesus as he was taken from Golgotha.

Potica, a Slovenian nut-roll bread baked in a round shape, is also placed in the basket to depict the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head, she said. Horseradish is added to the basket to represent the nails used to crucify Jesus on the cross, and an orange is included as a symbol of the sponge that was offered to Jesus with a bitter drink.

“The priest opens the ritual with a greeting and a hymn,” Yovanovich said. “He then proceeds to extend his hands over the food and prays a special blessing for each type of food. He then walks down the aisle and sprinkles each basket with holy water.”

After this blessing, the priest asks the children to come forward with their Easter baskets then he blesses them, she said. The ritual ends with a hymn.

Yovanovich said several Slovenian legends are associated with the blessing of food on Holy Saturday.

“There is a legend that the young girls race out of church to see who will get home first,” she said. “The winner of this race is assured, by legend, that she will be married that year.”

In some villages, she said, “the baskets are placed outside the door of the house or on the windowsill to be accessible to the ‘Pope’s Blessing’ that comes airborne from Rome and is supposed to keep the family safe all year long.”

Another Slovenian legend involves carrying baskets of blessed food to orchards, she said, then touching the baskets to the trees, which is believed to make them produce more fruit that year.

“The blessing of food is a beautiful and meaningful Slovenian tradition which is continued by families of Slovenian heritage at Holy Trinity Church every Easter,” Yovanovich said. “The tradition encourages family participation in its preparation and finally in consumption of the food—all the while reminiscing on the religious meaning of this holy day of Christ’s resurrection.” †


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