Easter (Wielkanoc) is the most important religious holiday in Poland and also in all the catholic countries. This is movable feast followed the moon cycles and this year we celebrate Easter in April (the first Sunday after the first spring full moon). Even for those of You who are not Catholic might be interesting to get to know some old Polish Easter traditions because there are full of meaning. This knowledge can also help to avoid some troubles for example on Easter Monday.
Holy Week consists of Palm Sunday (Niedziela Palmowa), Holy Thursday (Wielki Czwartek), Good Friday (Wielki Piątek), Holy Saturday (Wielka Sobota), Easter Sunday (Niedziela Wielkanocna) and Easter Monday (Lany Poniedziałek), which is a free day in Poland.
During the Holy Week which starts on Palm Sunday religious people prepare themselves spiritually and practically to Easter. In churches are organized retreats which is the time for reflection. People use to go to confession and communion. At homes Poles are doing big thorough cleaning and prepare food for Easter.
During the Palm Sunday followers go to church with palm branches or twigs in rememberance of Jesus triumphant entry in Jerusalem. People believed that this consecrated in church palms branches can protect homes from storms, thunderbolds and illness.
On Holy Thursday bells became silent in churches, they are replaced by rattles and clappers.
Good Friday is a day when the believers visit the symbolic tombs of Christ in churches to vigil. There are also in churches the special mess called The Way of the Cross (Droga Krzyżowa) which illustrates the Jesus way to the cross and it is time to reflection.
During the Holy Saturday followers go to the churches for baskets blessing which is a big attraction especially for children. Content of basket is called “święconka” and it begins the breakfast on Easter Sunday which is the most important meal for this feast and normally lasts till lunchtime or even includes the lunch. “Święconka “ is composed of painted eggs called “pisanki” or “kraszanki” (there are a lot of techniques of colouring eggs and hundred of patterns), bread, lamb made of sugar, cold meats for example sausage or smoked ham, salt, butter, Easter cake called “baba” and horseradish.
Egg is an eternal symbol of life- regenerating life and triumph on death. Bread represents the prosperity, fullness, God’s blessing, Salt is a symbol of purity, salt has also a power of frighten away all the evil, it is an essence of existence and truth. Lamb is a symbol of resurrected Christ. Horseradish refers to the bitterness of Jesus suffering on the cross which is changed into the joy after that. Horseradish was always a symbol of health and effectiveness together with another dishes so it presents on Easter table together with beetroots. Butter symbolizes sweetness after the Christ resurrection. Sausage refers to fertility, prosperity and abundance. Easter cakes normally shows how skillful and talented is a hostess. Cakes are very important ingredients of Easter breakfast, the most typical are “baba” and “mazurek”. The Easter breakfast on Sunday starts traditionally with sharing a boiled eggs with the relatives who wish each other all the best. In religious families the breakfast starts with a prayer. Every member of family receive the piece of egg with salt and piece of bread with horseradish-all from the basket consecrated by priest the day before.
On Easter Monday there is a very ancient tradition called “śmigus- dyngus”. This day people sprinkle or pour water one to another which is the spring symbol of purification and cleansing. Another sources say that this tradition refers to the renewal of the baptism sacrament.
This day especially young boys and girls have a lot of fun. But the girl who get soak with water should not be worry because it means that she will marry soon because she is very popular. Sometimes we can also met some hooligans pouring the buckets of water to the people but I hope it will not happen to anyone of you. Normally this day cities are more controlled by our police just in case.
As you see Polish Easter are full of meaning and symbols. For those who will spend Easter in Poland I would like to wish all the best, a lot of health, happiness and prosperity. (“Wszystkiego najlepszego, zdrowia, szczęścia I pomyślności”).