Polish Easter Traditions

Written by  //  29 March 2013  //  Other  //  Comments Off

Easter is major holiday in Poland, and Easter celebrations are not limited to Easter Sunday only. For many Poles the final week of Lent is a time of contemplation and seriousness, and there is less activity in bars and clubs. The most important are the first day, Palm Sunday, and the last three, known by the Latin term, ‘Triduum.’ From Palm Sunday to Wet Monday, this period is marked with religious rites and practices.
Palm Sunday (Niedziela Palmowa) marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is celebrated to commemorate the triumphant entering of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. On this day the devout take to church traditional colorful Easter palms (floral sticks comprised of dried wildflowers, grasses, pussy willow and birch branches, decorated with ribbon) to bless them.
Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Christ instituted the priesthood. In Krakow, bishops wash the feet of twelve old men in Wawel Cathedral in a symbolic gesture acknowledging the Last Supper.
Good Friday is a day of reflection on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On that day a strict fast ispracticed – according to the church one full meal can be eaten that day but no meat.
The celebration of the Eucharist is suspended. Liturgical service involves the Stations of the Cross, which depicts the final hours of Jesus’ life.
Easter Saturday is more cheerful with the tradition of the Blessing Basket (Swieconka). The baskets of Easter food are taken to church to be blessed; the food that is blessed is eaten as a part of the Easter Sunday meal. The food consists of specific items with particular attributes: eggs and sausage, symbolising birth, fertility and good health; bread, which represents both the body of Christ and food for life; a piece of horseradish, which stands for strength; and a ‘mazurek’ or traditional Easter cake, which embodies the skills and abilities needed for the coming year. Another characteristic is the ‘pisanki’, or brightly painted hardboiled eggs.
Easter Sunday is a quiet and family day. The faithful attend an early morning service (6am) before the symbolic breakfast. This is a time when family members share their wishes and hopes for each other and acknowledge and praise the resurrection of Christ.
Easter Monday (which is a public holiday) and is called ‘Smigus Dyngus’ or Wet Monday. Everyone splashes each other with water as this is considered to bring good health.