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So…. Karnawał (carnival) is over! No more parties, no more dancing, no more drinking until you fall down under the table. It’s all about somber (and sober) penance now.
Yes, today was Środa Popielcowa (Ash Wednesday), and in a country as Catholic as Poland that is indeed an important observance. The beginning of Wielki Post (Lent). The time for personal sacrifices in the name of religion.
How is Lent observed in Polish families? It all depends on how religious they are. Most people would simply give up eating meat on Fridays during those 40 days before Easter. And I remember that babcia (grandmother) had also said something about herrings. Apparently, only herrings without cream are acceptable during lent. And coffee without sugar. And no dessert.
And let’s not forget about rekolekcje wielkopostne (Lent retreat) when you go to church and pray. As far as I remember (though I might be wrong, personally, I’ve never participated in those activities), rekolekcje end in Spowiedź Wielkanocna (Easter confession). Every Catholic should go to confession at least once a year and that’s what Spowiedź Wielkanocna is for.
I don’t know if it still works like that, but a few years back, parishes distributed confession slips to all faithful (old enough to need confession) during Lent. Then when you were actually in the confessional doing your confessing, you gave that slip to the priest. That way the church knew who participated and who didn’t.
So, now we have 40 (well, 39 now) days of prayer, penance and sacrifice ahead of us to prepare us for Wielkanoc (Easter).
And speaking of sacrifice, what are you giving up for Lent this year?