When we had the opportunity to explore Poland and Polish culture before, I knew that I had to expand on it somehow. I also knew that it was only the beginning when it came to studying world culture and geography. My 3 year old showed a great interest in that. So it would only be a matter of time before we did more exploration. With Easter coming up, we’re exploring Polish Easter traditions and customs.
Do the Polish Celebrate Easter?
Easter observances in Poland actually begin on Ash Wednesday, when pussywillows called in Polish “bazie” or “kotki” are cut and placed in the water. These pussywillow twigs are used later on Palm Sunday as “palms” to be blessed in the church, because palms are not available in Poland.
Holy Week (Wielki Tydzień) begins on Palm Sunday, which is a commemoration of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. High Mass features a reading of Christ’s Passion. During the Great Fast it is customary to participate in special religious observances such as Stations of the Cross, Bitter Lamentations, and an annual three-day retreat which closes with the reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
The Easter season ends on Easter Monday when the traditional “Smigus-Dyngus” custom is observed.
8 Polish Traditions for Easter Season
Ash Wednesday: The Polish Easter celebrations, beginning with Ash Wednesday. Most of the Poles try to go to the church for the mass, where priests mark their heads with a cross of ashes while saying: Remember, man thou art dust and to dust thou shall return”.
Lent: For Polish Catholics, Lent is the most reflective spiritual season. During this time people are fasting, going to the confession, praying and visiting the specially decorated churches to see “Our Lord’s Grave”. Each parish strives to come up with the most artistically and religiously evocate arrangement in which the Blessed Sacrament, draped in a filmy veil, is prominently displayed.
During the Lent most of the people do not eat meat on Fridays. The preparation for Easter begins with the six-week period of Lent, with its traditions of Stations of the Cross and the Bitter Lamentations devotion which traces the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ and lead-in with the hymn of “Gorzkie żale przybywajcie”, which means; Come to us, bitter lamentations. Lent ends Saturday noon, but fasting is observed until Resurrection Mass.
Palm Sunday: On this day people bring the puss willows branches or other custom made wild flowers bouquets instead of palms to the church for the blessing. Some older folks say that swallowing one of the buds from the puss willows branch will ensure health all year. Parishioners processed with the palms through the streets around the parish, celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
Blessed “palms” are taken home and placed by the crucifix or holy images, and remain there until the next year.
On Saturday people take to churches decorated baskets (Swieconka) containing a sampling of traditional food to be blessed. Swieconka is very popular Polish tradition. Also this day typically Polish ceremonies are performed in the church yard. It is the blessing of the fire, the reverence which goes back to pagan times.
Blessing of the Food
Swieconka is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions. On Saturday people take to churches decorated baskets containing a sampling of traditional food to be blessed: hard-boiled shelled eggs, ham, sausage, salt, horseradish, fruits, bread and cake.
Prominently displayed among these is the Easter lamb, usually molded from butter or sugar and colorful pisanki. The food have a symbolic meaning, for example:
* 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 until Sunday morning.
The custom of coloring eggs for Easter is still observed in Polish custom. The eggs are decorated with many traditional Polish symbols of Easter. Most popular are lamb, cross, floral designs or Easter’s greetings such as Wesollego Alleluja.
According to the Polish folk craft experts we divide Written Eggs to different categories. The eggs decorated with the use of treated wax are called “pisanki”. Another technique involved gluing colored paper or shiny fabric on them. The eggs which are painted in one color are called “malowanki” or “kraszanki”.
If patterns are etched with a pointed instrument on top of the paint, the eggs are then called “skrobanki” or “rysowanki”.
On Easter morning, a special Resurrection Mass is celebrated in every church in Poland. At this Mass, a procession of priests, altar boys and the people circles the church three times while the church bells peal and the organ is played for the first time since they had been silenced on Good Friday.
Following the Mass, people return home to eat the food blessed the day before.
The Easter table will be covered with a white tablecloth. The white tablecloth is indicative of the white swaddling cloth with which Our Lord was wrapped when he was placed in the Holy Sepulcher. On the middle of the table in most homes housewife will put colored eggs, cold meats, coils of sausages, ham, yeast cakes, pound cakes, poppy-seed cakes, and a lamb made of sugar.
Polish Easter Soup called Zurek or White Barscz is often served at the Easter meal, garnished with the hard-boiled eggs and sausage. There is also tradition to share blessed eggs with the members of the family and wish each other good health, happiness for the rest of the year.
Monday (just after aster) is a holiday in Poland and is called in polish “Lany Poniedzialek” or “Smigus- Dyngus”. This is a wonderful day of fun.
The ancient Polish tradition on Easter Monday, is celebrated by everyone with enthusiasm by sprinkling each other with water. Especially kids have fun this day. Some people say that by being splashed with water on Easter Monday will bring you good luck throughout the year.
Easter is approaching, and once again we are excited to take you on a tour of the world and how it celebrates Easter! Explore the diverse traditions of Easter with us, and don’t miss our series from last year or 2015. You also will enjoy this wonderful overview of global Easter traditions. Find these posts and more on our Easter Around the World Pinterest board:
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