The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Keeping holiday traditions at college and during a pandemic

3 min read

My basket being virtually blessed during the St. Mary’s livestream. (Emilia Michalkiewicz | The Blue & Gray Press)


Staff Photographer

Most holidays that lead to big family gatherings are luckily during breaks. From large Thanksgiving dinners to Memorial Day and Independence Day cookouts, we are often able to be home and with family. Unfortunately for me, I did not end up that lucky with one of my favorite holidays when I most enjoy seeing my family, Easter. Growing up in a Polish family, Easter is one of the most exciting holidays. It meant seeing my cousins not only on Sunday for dinner, but on Saturday for Święconka (pronounced shfyun-TSOON-ka). Święconka is a Polish Easter tradition where families take baskets full of their Easter dinner foods and get them blessed on Saturday morning. The baskets are often filled with fresh sausage, rye bread, lamb-shaped butter, dyed eggs, wine or vodka, horseradish and candy. 

My family’s baskets this year for a virtual food blessing. (Emilia Michalkiewicz | The Blue & Gray Press)

Every Saturday before Easter meant getting up early to see my cousins and going to our old church in Baltimore for the blessing, and usually going to a small store across the street to get candy or paçzki, Polish jelly filled donuts, after the blessing. When I realized freshman year that going home for Easter would mean two round trips from Maryland to Virginia in one weekend for my parents, we decided I would stay at school and my parents would come down for the weekend. I was disappointed to say the least. 

I had been going to masses at St. Mary’s, the Catholic Church around the corner from campus on William Street. One Sunday that spring I happened to look at the Easter events in their bulletin and lo-and-behold, they had a food blessing scheduled for the Saturday before Easter. Święconka is a Polish tradition, not just Catholic, and I had not seen much evidence of a large Polish community in Fredericksburg, so I was surprised. I was so excited I called my parents and then started planning my own basket since I had not brought one with me. I went to Five Below for a small basket and some candies and then the grocery store for a few foods that I knew I could fit in my dorm room fridge. I went to Święconka freshman year and again sophomore year with my roommate. I was excited for it this year but with campus being closed for COVID-19, I unfortunately could not go. Luckily for me, St. Mary’s live-streamed the food blessing on Facebook, so I was able to blend my family traditions with my newfound college traditions. 

My basket being virtually blessed during the St. Mary’s live stream. (Emilia Michalkiewicz | The Blue & Gray Press)

As an out-of-state student, coming to Mary Washington took some getting used to. It may seem like you will have to leave some things behind. My advice is to just take a look around. I guarantee you will find ways to continue traditions you may have with friends and family at home, and you can even share them with new friends at school and create new memories with them.

My meal after the blessing, some sausage, dyed eggs and buttered rye bread. (Emilia Michalkiewicz | The Blue & Gray Press)

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