Polish Language Blog

Środa Popielcowa – Ash Wednesday Posted by on Feb 17, 2010 in Culture

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?

Tags: , , ,
Keep learning Polish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Adam:


    I’m treating myself to a spa holiday;)

  2. Jacob:

    Alcohol. Please pray for me. 😉

  3. Alfonso Czaplinski:

    Hello Ana!
    Carnival – party of joy, as is called for here. Here in Brazil there is a gross exaggeration of the party carnaval, deaths, crimes, rapes increasing these days, called: Carnival (party of meat, but I think it’s a feast of madness). Our Lord Jesus Christ must hate this feast, the devil and evil men are like this. After finishing the party, then we have the “Wednesday’s Ashes” or (Sroda popielcowa) time of prayer and fasting and penitence. May God have mercy of us sinners and deliver us from evil.
    Alfonso Czaplinski from Brazil

  4. John:

    I went to a Catholic grade school. Every Friday during Lent it was required for the whole school, grades 1 to 12, to go to church for Stations of the Cross at 3 pm. We had to buy the required Stations of the Cross booklet for 15 cents. I hated the ceremony since it required knelling on hard knellers and standing, over and over. I went to a public school in 9th grade and never went to another Stations of the Cross. I also hated the ash being pasted on one’s forehead!