Faithful throughout the Philadelphia Archdiocese are enjoying Easter meals that have an extra ingredient – a traditional blessing.

A number of parishes in the five-county area offered blessings of Easter food on Holy Saturday, continuing a custom native to Slavic peoples and provided for in the Roman Ritual.

Typical items in a family’s basket would include “eggs, kielbasa, meats” and breads such as babka or paska, said Chrystyna Prokopovich, curator of the Ukrainian Heritage Studies Center at Manor College in Jenkintown.

In addition, “there’s always horseradish to remind you of Christ’s suffering on Good Friday,” she said.

At St. William Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, items presented for blessing April 16 reflected that parish’s diverse ethnic and cultural makeup. Along with kielbasa were Italian pizzelle cookies, Asian dishes and salsa ranchera.

“The pizzelle cookies are cholesterol-free,” noted pastor Father Alfonso Concha approvingly.

Invoking God’s blessing over food is “an easy way to make a difference in the focus of our lives,” said presider Oblate Father Eugène Almonor, in residence at St. William as chaplain of the archdiocesan Haitian Catholic Community.

“Food is a beautiful gift from God that nourishes our bodies and brings people together to celebrate life,” he said. “Before eating, remember to acknowledge God’s provision in our lives.”

Doing so “encourages us to recognize that blessings come from the Creator, who deserves our honor,” said Father Almonor, pointing to St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).

And above all, he added, “never forget that Jesus is the Bread of Life.”

Father Alfonso Concha, pastor of St. William Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, reacts to foods presented for a traditional Easter blessing, April 16. (Gina Christian)