People around the world will observe the time-honored custom of blessing baskets of special foods on Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday morning.
The specially prepared foods represent the meal that will break their 40-day Lenten fast.
This Easter custom takes place at every Christian church, many community centers – and at the John Kollar Slovak Society (Kollar Club) in the old South Side neighborhood fondly known as “the Hollow.”
The Kollar Club was established 100 years ago to serve the Slovak immigrants who settled in and around this little community, many of whom attended St. Matthew Roman Catholic Slovak Church. When the late Reverend Louis Hohos became pastor of St. Matthew’s in the 30s, he held the traditional Easter basket blessing at the Kollar Club as a way of accommodating many of the parishioners who had no vehicles and were unable to travel the three-mile round trip to attend the short prayer service at the church.
This long-standing tradition has continued for more than 75 years. Today, fourth and fifth generation descendants who have married and moved out of the area, return to the Kollar Club on Holy Saturday with basket and child in hand to participate in the Easter basket blessing. Young and old alike proudly carry their baskets of goodies.
Upon entering the hall on this special morning, the visitor is greeted with the delicious scents of Easter – succulent baked ham, kolbasi spiced with garlic, bitter horseradish tamed with grated beets (chrin), sweet bread called paska, nut rolls and more. In time, the priest arrives and the pungent aroma of incense permeates the little room.
Baskets – large and small – adorned with elaborately embroidered covers, fine linen towels or handcrafted lace work line the rows of tables. Many of the basket covers are family treasures and speak lovingly of the time-honored custom of the Easter basket blessing.
The traditional Easter blessing service will take place at the Kollar Club, 3226 Jane Street, once again on Holy Saturday, April 19 at 12:30 p.m. While people of Central and Eastern European descent have traditionally observed the blessing of baskets, the practice continues to grow among all nationalities.