Surrounding their father, David DiNapoli, four of six DiNapoli siblings took turns Saturday carrying a basket with food to the front of St. Louis Church on Danforth Street in Portland, where it joined dozens of other Easter baskets ready to be blessed during the special “Swieconka” service, a Polish tradition.

The basket contained potatoes, apples, cucumbers, pears and chocolate bunnies, said Augustine DiNapoli, 8, who was joined by Noah, 7, Collette, 5, and Chloe, 3, while their mother, Ellen, sister Abbey, 10, and brother Ambrose, 3 months, stayed home in Falmouth.

The Rev. Kevin Upham blesses Easter baskets with Holy Water on Saturday at St. Louis Church. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Although the DiNapoli children are Italian and Irish, their mother grew up attending a Polish church.

“We are continuing the tradition,” David DiNapoli said.

They were among a couple of hundred people, many of the them born in Poland, who took part in the centuries-old tradition in Eastern European countries of bringing food to be consumed on Easter to be blessed by the parish priest. This year, the Rev. Kevin Upham sprinkled the baskets with holy water.

Many of the baskets are family heirlooms and many of the food items have a symbolic meaning in Christianity.

Bread is a sign of Jesus, who is the bread of life. Salt represents prosperity and justice and reminds people that they are the salt of the earth. Eggs symbolize new life and the resurrection from the tomb. Ham is a sign of great joy and abundance, while kielbasa represents generosity. Chocolate and other sweets represent the promise of eternal life and the sweetness of things to come.

The baskets are decorated with ribbons and flowers and lined or covered with white linen.

A plastic sheep and egg rests upon a bed of parsley, ringed by kielbasa, during the blessing of Easter baskets. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Cofia Trzcinski and her mother, Danuta Golemo, both Polish immigrants, brought a simple basket with a kielbasa, eggs and a lamb figurine.

“This is my first time. My mom wanted to show me what the blessing of the baskets is,” Trzcinski said.

Grzyna Pregno of Portland carried a basket filled with chestnut-colored eggs with delicate etchings. The eggs were decorated by her son, Tom Borkowski of Boston. First the eggs are dyed in an infusion of onion skins and then etched with a pin and razor. Borkowski also brought his mother, a Polish immigrant, some precious Polish flour that she can’t find in Maine.

Pregno, who starts cooking for Easter weeks ahead, said American flour just won’t do.

“I can’t bake with American flour. I cannot explain why, but it  isn’t just me. My sister can’t bake with American flour either,” Pregno said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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