Columnist reflects on Easter traditions
By Roger Pitt
Religion is a reflective discussion at the End Stool and not a debate.
It is a matter of knowing people you discuss any controversial subject with and avoiding a topic – like abortion – that has virtually no consensus, even within the for and against sides. The parameters have been set by the Supreme Court, but has not slowed the debate.
As I get older, more time is given reflecting on my personal beliefs and interest in other Christian sects’ traditions and beliefs within their churches.
One of my pastimes is reading about the history of religion, how some practices and traditions came about. Christians often forget there are two books to the Bible – the Old Testament, on the history of Jews prior to Jesus Christ, and the New Testament with the Gospels and history from his birth in Bethlehem to death in Jerusalem.
This week Ash Wednesday began the period designated Lent, culminating with Easter, establishing the basic belief in the resurrection of Jesus as the foundation of Christianity.
There is scripture as to Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, but what about Ash Wednesday.
Tom King, came closest to defining, the why, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” in Genesis. The timeline he attributed to the Gospels in the New Testament.
The purpose of Lent is defined by an internet source: “Preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.”
Lent is traditionally described as lasting forty days; in commemoration of the forty days, which according to the Gospel, Jesus spent enduring the temptation of Satan before beginning his public ministry.
Ash Wednesday is the first of 40 days fasting. It is 46 days before Easter, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded. It can be as early as February 4th or as late as March 10.
Catholics on Wednesday wore the traditional sign of the cross in ashes on their forehead. In non-English speaking countries, ashes are sprinkled over the head.
Tradition is that the ashes are from palms from the prior Palm Sunday. However, palms are not available everywhere and substitution of local tree branches are used.
The day prior to Lent is observed binging on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras before fasting and self-denial.
To me it is “Paczki Day” and pigging out on the Polish antidote to czarnina, similar to lefse and Norwegian pastries offsetting lutefisk. Like many Polish words, “paczki” has no hint to its pronunciation: poonch-key.
I delighted consuming, what we called poonch-ka, for pure pleasure. It is a richer, more dense pastry than a donut, it is similar to.
The epitome according to my mother, were made by Mamie Lila and the main source of paczki growing up in Amherst Junction.
Grease spots on the brown paper sack from Mrs. Lila, were telltale of the paczki inside. It was up to the eater whether to add a spoon of prune filling after cutting a slit in the paczki and/or coat it in sugar. Neither was necessary because of the inherent goodness of the mix of spices and ingredients.
I have searched for years for a plain doughnut that tastes as good as those fried in lard by my mother, using the recipe of Dorothy Bruley, a neighbor we called Auntie.
Rendering lard is another of those things that have gone the way of the old wood stove in Auntie’s kitchen.
My sister Karen has embraced many of the culinary traditions of our mother Connie, a Powegian, of half Polish and half Norwegian heritage. Her paczki, lefse and pastries are among the best today.
Janet Searl, who I shared office space with at New London City Hall, was a source of paczki during those years. She would rescue a few for me at Paczki Bingo in a Stevens Point church.
Some traditions associated with Lent have changed, too, especially on Good Friday.
Growing up, and during my first years in New London with The Post-Crescent, it was common that businesses would close between noon and 3 p.m. on Good Friday.
That is no longer true. But that is the way of today, because business as usual is growing on Thanksgiving and Christmas, too.