When we ventured over to the Southside for the Slovak Easter Customs Breakfast in March, I had no idea what to expect except that I knew there would be a big crowd of people wearing green since the St. Patrick’s Day Parade was on the same day. I knew that the customs breakfast was being advertised as a mini-cultural festival and, since it was sponsored by the Slovak Customs Group/Cultural Diversity Committee of Prince of Peace Parish, I wanted to give it a try. I am so happy that we did because it was a wonderful event with demonstrations of egg decorating, wool spinning, Easter bread and sausage making, an accordion player, a bake sale and more.
First and foremost, though, we got to try a traditional Slovak breakfast. Thanks to Sue Ondrejco, Director of the National Slovak Society in McMurray, PA, for her very detailed information about not only what we got on our plate but the Slovak words for each item and their special religious significance. Here is what we ate (clockwise starting with the ham):
Ham – šunka - symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus and, as the most popular main dish, also symbolizes the great joy and abundance of the Easter celebration
Sausage – kolbassi - also symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus and, as a very flavorful dish, symbolizes God’s favor and generosity
Easter Cheese – hrudka or syrek depending on what part of the country you are eating it – this bland but slightly sweet cheese is supposed to remind all Christians that they should use moderation in all aspects of their lives
Easter sweet bread – paska – this sweet, rich yeast bread is symbolic of Jesus as the Bread of Life. The bread is often ornamented with a cross of dough in the center surrounded by a circle of plaited dough symbolizing the crown of thorns
Cookies – ceregi – but they’re not a typical Easter breakfast food – pastries, especially butter and egg rich pastries filled with fruits and nuts, symbolize the many gifts from God and the sweetness of the resurrection
Boiled egg – vajca – when colored and decorated, they are symbolic of Jesus’s Resurrection from the tomb on Easter Sunday and of new life
Regional differences can dictate other various additions such as wine, vinegar, or veal but, regardless of the exact foods eaten, since all the foods are blessed none is to be wasted.