Unique and traditional customs and traditions are followed in Poland, especially during Easter.
|2019||21 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|22 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
|2020||12 Apr||Sun||Easter Sunday|
|13 Apr||Mon||Easter Monday|
Easter is one such holiday which is celebrated vibrantly and colourfully. It is the end of a period of fasting and thus it is a time of joy for all. There are a lot of unique folk and religious customs associated with it. Many of these traditions are closely followed from the middle ages.
From early in history, special rituals started with the arrival of spring. Many of these special ceremonies were incorporated in the celebration of Easter when Christianity arrived in Poland. Hence, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ started to be celebrated with traditional rituals. Though there are Protestant and Orthodox communities, Poland is predominantly Roman Catholic. Irrespective of religious denomination, Easter celebrations mirror one another.
Ash Wednesday is the starting point of the Polish Easter celebration. Religious observers go to Church on this day to attend Mass. Priests mark the sign-of-the-cross with ash on the forehead of worshippers. This symbolizes that man comes from dust and will return to it.
The most reflective spiritual season for Polish Catholics is Lent. This time period is six weeks long and is a preparation to celebrate Easter. People observe Lent in a meaningful way. They visit decorated churches to pay homage to Christ, to fast, go to confession and pray regularly. Parishes compete with each other to decorate the best Blessed Sacrament religiously and artistically. Each Blessed Sacrament is draped in an elegant veil, whereby it is majestically displayed.
On Fridays, most Poles do not eat meat during this time period. In the Lenten season, the traditional way of the cross is practiced. The Bitter Lamentations devotion, which traces the passion and Crucifixion of Christ, is performed. The hymn of “Gorzkie żale przybywajcie”, is sung, which means “Come to Us” bitter lamentations. The Saturday after Good Friday marks the end of Lent, but people often fast until Sunday Easter Mass. In addition, spring cleaning in Poland is observed to prepare for Easter. This cleaning symbolizes removing of all illness and evils from home along with preparing a home to welcome spring as a season of prosperity.
In the tradition of Christianity, the day of Christ’s death is a solemn and sad day. On this day, Christians fast and recite the way of the cross. In churches, ‘Holy Sepulchres’ are set-up. Here, wooden figures of Christ are erected in the midst of flowers. Scouts or children dress up as Roman soldiers and watch over tombs. The installation of tombs is very majestic and there are many sizes and shapes in which they are constructed. Sometimes, the tomb also will depict social issues, current events and Polish history apart from their religious significance.
Passion plays will be performed throughout Poland on Good Friday. It is the medieval custom comprising of a theatrical depiction of the passion and death of Christ. According to its organizers, the passion play in Poznan brings together thousands of people, making it the largest ceremony of its kind in the world.
Pam Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday commemorates the glorious entry of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem. On this day in churches, special palms are blessed with holy water. These palms are made of currant, raspberry, boxwood or willow twigs decorated with colored feathers, herbs, moss and flowers. The symbolism of these palm leaves symbolizes good health for all members in the family throughout the year. When it is kept at home, the house will be protected from arrogance of neighbors and other misfortunes.
Blessing of Food
Just before Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday is a day of joyful anticipation. On this day food is blessed in church. It is known as święconka – a decorative basket containing food. Items in this basket include things such as Easter cakes, horseradish, cold cuts, salt, bread, the symbol of Christ resurrected, and a small lamb figure made of sugar and eggs – symbolizing birth and new life. These things are eaten on Easter. In the South of Poland, there is a special custom after the resurrection ceremonies in the church, where family member join together and circle three times around the table on which the basket is place. They believe that if they do so, the blessing will remain with the house and the members staying in it.
Baskets full of food will be taken to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. Some of the families invite the priest to their home so that the food they have already prepared for the Easter dinner can be blessed at home. Some families also invite their family friends to be on this occasion. Resurrection of Christ is commemorated by the ringing of bells in the church late on Saturday evening. Guns are fired in military barracks. Fasting comes to end with these symbolic activities. Ceremonies on Easter Sunday include burning of incense, singing and ceremonious processions in both Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Easter Sunday Breakfast
The Sunday Mass celebrating the resurrection of Christ is the beginning of the Easter Sunday church ceremonies. It will include a ceremonial morning procession and service. In the past, children welcomed this day with throwing caps. The breakfast at every house will be very grand featuring a medley of delicious foods. The breakfast table will be filled with fresh flowers, catkins, chicken figurines and with pisanki Easter eggs, which will be place don a white tablecloth. On the centre of the table, the blessed food will be placed.
Sharing of eggs is the beginning of Easter breakfast. It is the same as sharing of wafers at the Christmas holiday. The family members eat the food that was blessed on the previous day. The breakfast table also will be filled with kid’s favorites, chicken, chocolate Easter bunnies, mazurek short crust tarts, teacake, stuffed eggs, pates, sausages, ham and sour zur soup, among other delicacies. All of these foods are enjoyed by the family members at celebration.
White cloth is used to decorate the Easter table, mothers will place a lamb made of sugar, poppy-seed cakes, pound cakes, yeast cakes, ham, and coils of sausages, cold meats and colored eggs. The Easter meal also will have Polish Easter Soup, called Zurek. Locals also share blazed eggs and wish other members of the house prosperity and good health.
Pisanki Easter Eggs
Eggs on the Easter table symbolize rebirth and life, serving as a tradition of rich heritage for Poles. As time has passed, the decoration and dyeing of the eggs has changed, but this custom is still strong today. Pisanki is gifted to friends and family members, which symbolizes success, strength and health.
Though large gift-giving is reserved for Christmas time, children in Poland receive presents at this time. According to their beliefs, a huge Easter bunny travels from home to home and hides sweets and chocolates in children’s rooms the night preceding Easter Sunday. The tradition mirrors the idea of Santa Claus brining children gifts the night before Christmas Day.
Dyngus Day also is known as smigus dyngus or Wet Monday. Wet money is celebrated on the Monday after Easter Sunday. On this day, everyone sprays water on family members, friends as well as strangers. This was a tradition of Pagan tradition. This symbolizes spring time cleansing from illness and dirt and awakening of nature. Maidens sprinkled with water on this day, it is thought, will marry soon.
In contemporary times, farmers on this day go to their farm fields to sprinkle water to their crops. Playing jokes on neighbors also take place. For example, Polish farmers may well hide the buckets or farm tools of an unsuspecting neighbor. In most streets and most public places, boys often look forward to Wet Monday for the occasion to spray water on their sisters or on their sister’s friends or on any women who they may fortuitously encounter. This is an ancient custom in Polish history, whereby men have been drenching women on this day with buckets of water and water guns. In earlier times, a man would soak a girl who he wishes to propose marriage.
In the present day, many women can get soaked by a man on an Easter Monday. Even in big cities, the tradition is very strong and thus women who go out on this day wrap themselves in advance in raincoats and hats before they go outdoors. No complaints can be made if a girl is publicly soaked on this day. This custom is going strong and is likely to last a long time. In addition, little boys who soak their big sisters on this day are safe from punishment.