Easter (Wielkanoc) is traditionally is the most important Christian holiday, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Polish Easter’s original folk and religious character and it not changed much during the centuries, but due to the rich variety of many regional traditions in Poland, some published information might be little different.
Easter observances in Poland actually begin on Ash Wednesday, when pussywillows called in polish “bazie” or “kotki” are cut and placed in the water. These pussywillow twigs are used later on Palm Sunday (“Palmowa Niedziela”) as “palms” to be blessed in the church. Holy Week (Wielki Tydzień) begins on Palm Sunday, which is a commemoration of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
- Ash Wednesday / Środa Popielcowa
The Polish Easter celebrations, beginning with Ash Wednesday. Most of the Poles try to go to the church for the mass, where priests mark their heads with a cross of ashes while saying: “Remember, man thou art dust and to dust thou shall return”. (Z prochu powstałeś i w proch sie obrócisz)
- Lent / Wielki Post
For Polish Catholics, Lent is the most reflective spiritual season. During this time people are fasting, going to the confession, praying and visiting the specially decorated churches to see “Our Lord’s Grave”. Each parish strives to come up with the most artistically and religiously evocate arrangement in which the Blessed Sacrament, draped in a filmy veil, is prominently displayed. During the Lent most of the people do not eat meat on Fridays.
- Palm Sunday / Niedziela Palmowa
On this day people bring the pusssywillow branches or other custom made wild flowers bouquets instead of palms to the church for the blessing. Some older folks say that swallowing one of the buds from the pussywillows branch will ensure health all year. Parishioners processed with the palms through the streets around the parish, celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
- Holly Saturday, Food Blesing/Święconka
On Saturday people take to churches decorated baskets (Swieconka) containing a sampling of traditional food to be blessed. Swieconka is very popular Polish tradition (see below). Also this day typically Polish ceremonies are performed in the church yard. It is the blessing of the fire, the reverence which goes back to pagan times.
Food Blessing / Święconka
Święconka is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions. On Saturday people take to churches decorated baskets containing a sampling of traditional food to be blessed: hard-boiled eggs, ham, sausage, salt, pepper, horseradish, fruits, bread and cake. Prominently displayed among these is the Easter lamb, usually molded from butter and colorful pisanki.
Common foods brought for blessing include: eggs, bread, butter, salt,pepper, horseradish, ham, and sausage.
The food blessed in the church remains untouched until Sunday morning.
Eggs / Pisanki, Kraszanki, Malowanki, Drapanki, Wyklejanki, Nalepianki
The custom of coloring eggs for Easter is still observed in Polish custom. The eggs are decorated with many traditional Polish symbols of Easter. Most popular are lamb, cross, floral designs or Easter’s greetings such as Wesołego Alleluja. The eggs decorated with the use of treated wax are called “pisanki”. Another technique involved gluing colored paper or shiny fabric on them. The eggs which are painted in one color are called “malowanki” or “kraszanki”. If patterns are etched with a pointed instrument on top of the paint, the eggs are then called “skrobanki” or “rysowanki”.
- Easter Sunday / Wielka Niedziela
On Easter morning, a special Resurrection Mass is celebrated in every church in Poland. At this Mass, a procession of priests, altar boys and the people circles the church three times while the church bells peal and the organ is played for the first time since they had been silenced on Good Friday. Following the Mass, people return home to eat the food blessed the day before.
The Easter table will be covered with a white tablecloth. On the middle of the table in most homes housewife will put colored eggs, cold meats, coils of sausages, ham, yeast cakes, pound cakes, poppy-seed cakes, and a lamb made of sugar. Polish Easter Soup called Żurek or White Barszcz is often served at the Easter meal, garnished with the hard-boiled eggs and sausage. There is also tradition to share blassed eggs with the members of the family and wish each other good health, happiness for the rest of the year.
- Wet Monday / Lany Poniedzialek
Monday (just after aster) is a holiday in Poland and is called in polish “Lany Poniedzialek” or “Śmingus- Dyngus”. This is a wonderful day of fun. The ancient Polish tradition on Easter Monday, is celebrated by everyone with enthusiasm by sprinkling each other with water. Especially kids have fun this day. Some people say that by being splashed with water on Easter Monday will bring you good luck throughout the year.
Happy Easter! Have a wonderful Day! Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych!
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)