In Poland Palm Sunday takes place 7 days before Easter celebration. Religious festivities include procession of the faithful carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. Since there are no real palm trees in Poland, they are replaced with fake palms or native trees.
Holy Saturday and Blessing of the Food (Swieconka)
This is one of the most enduring and beloved traditions in Poland. Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the creativity of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event.
The Blessing of the Food is, however, a festive occasion. The three-part blessing prayers specifically address the various contents of the baskets, with special prayers for the meats, eggs, cakes and breads. The priest or deacon then sprinkles the individual baskets with holy water. In some parishes, the baskets are lined up on long tables; in others, parishioners process to the front of the altar carrying their baskets, as if in a Communion line.
The foods in the baskets have a symbolic meaning:
- eggs – symbolize life and Christ’s resurrection
- bread – symbolic of Jesus
- lamb – represents Christ
- salt – represents purification
- horseradish – symbolic of the bitter sacrifice of Christ
- ham – symbolic of great joy and abundance.
The food blessed in the church remains untouched according to local traditions until either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.
The celebration begins with a festive breakfast that includes the blessed food. The house is usually decorated with painted eggs (pisanki), Easter bunnies, marzipan lambs (baranki) and flowers. The whole day is spent enjoying the company of friends, family and great food. The traditional Polish Easter food includes; eggs, white sausage, ham, dry thin sausage (kabanosy), herring, tripe soup (flaki), white soup (zurek), potato salad, braised red cabbage and our famous deserts; poppy seed cake (makowiec), babka, cheesecake and marzipan lamb. Many households also prepare celebratory dinner and hide small gifts for children that come from the Easter Bunny.
In Poland eggs are very important part of the Easter tradition. They are used as a table decoration and also as a part of an Easter basket. There are different techniques of decorating eggs for Easter and it is an activity not only for children but also adults:
- Pisanki are created by drawing or painting. Traditional technique requires the egg shell to be covered with a layer of molten wax in which the pattern is scratched. The egg is then submerged into a dye. Finally, the wax preventing the dye to adhere to the eggshell is removed.
- Drapanki are formed by scratching with a sharp instrument the outer shell of dyed eggs.
- Painted eggs formed by boiling the eggs in colorful broth, formerly obtained exclusively from natural ingredients.
- brown ( red ): onion peels
- Black : bark of oak, walnut shells
- Yellow-amber : the bark of young apple tree or calendula ( nagietek)
- blue : the petals of cornflower (blawatek)
- Violet : petals of dark mallows (malwa)
- Green : the young shoots of rye or leaves of vinca
- pink juice from beet
- Oklejanki are decorated with scraps of colored, glossy paper, textiles, also thread or yarn wool like.
- Nalepianki – Created by decorating eggs shell with multicolored paper cutouts.
- Azurki – openwork eggs – are made of blown eggs . The technique involves drilling holes in the shell. A shell with pre-drilled patterns is usually painted with acrylic paint.
Wet Monday (Lany Poniedzialek “Smigus Dyngus”)
Smigus Dyngus is another less formal Easter tradition that follows Holy Sunday. It is a national holiday so most families spend another day at home. Although the celebration looks bit different than other Easter customs, it is probably the most fun and unique one. On that day boys are allowed to throw water over girls for good luck. The groups of boys wait outside with buckets of water, water guns, hoses, etc. It is best to stay at home if you are a girl, but even there you are not completely safe. It is customary for boys to go door to door and spray water on girls in exchange for small gifts (chocolate, candy). I remember those days when I was soaking wet multiple times during that day, so its best to carry a water gun to fight back if you are planning to go outside 🙂 Wet Monday usually ends with young adults celebrating the end of Lent and going out to restaurants, bars, clubs.
Author- Kate Scheck