Re-living the moments. The original article was posted in April 2021. Easter is tomorrow! Therefore, I want to re-live with you Polish traditions and customs. And while I do the last preparations for tomorrow, I wish you all Happy Easter!
Easter celebration in Poland: it is time for some unique facts and traditions. As it is Easter week, the timing couldn’t be better. Two festivals are the most important in Polish culture and traditions: the first one is Christmas (Christmas Celebration in Poland: 11 unique facts and traditions), and the second one is Easter (in the Polish language: Wielkanoc). Yet, often Easter is said to be the more important one.
How is the Easter celebration in Poland? What are the most important traditions and unique facts? Is it the same as in the other European countries?
Although many things might be in common (e.g., Easter bunny, eggs), Poland is pretty unique with its Easter celebrations. If you visit Poland in March or April, try to match your travel dates to the Easter holiday. You will be able to experience traditional Easter decorations done at home, see people carrying baskets of food to the church, and get into water fights on Easter Monday (just like the Holi water fights in India). Sounds fun? So let’s start!
Lamb represents Jesus Christ, who like a lamb sacrificed his life for people; life’s victory over death.
Egg symbolizes new life and fertility.
Bunny is a symbol of transience, resurrection and fertility. It also represents waiting time as it was believed that rabbits sleep with open eyes.
Easter chicken symbolizes a new life, rebirth, and happiness.
Easter palm represents triumph, immortality, victory over sin, and martyrdom. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s entry to Jerusalem.
Boxwood twigs, evergreen branches and leaves represent resurrection.
Young wheat / oat shoots / watercress refer to life, rebirth, resurrection, and green meadow.
Easter cake, which grows on the yeast, is a symbol of the growth of faith, hope, and love.
Water refers to purification, a rebirth of spirit and body, source of life.
EIGHT UNIQUE FACTS AND TRADITIONS
40 days before Easter, on Ash Wednesday, begins Lent. It is a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In the past, a lot of Lent’s customs were about the consumed meals. During Lent, bread dipped in olive oil was eaten, herrings without cream, and coffee, mostly made of acorns, without sugar. Music was forbidden, same as singing, games, and social meetings. During Lent, youth and children were even reprimanded for louder laughter and screams. With only small breaks, social life ceased for six weeks. Nowadays, some people plan for Lent’s resolution, e.g., no sweets, no smoking, more fit lifestyle, etc. Some people still prefer not to party during this time.
#2 Palm Sunday
On this day, we celebrate the solemn entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. In Poland, this Sunday was once called ‘Flower’ or ‘Willow’. The willow was replacing palm branches in our country. To date, the palms are blessed in the church and then carried home. In some Polish cities, there are still competitions for the most beautiful and tallest palms. The most famous one is in the town called Łyse, in the Kurpie region. Just 30km away from my mom’s hometown! 🙂
#3 HOLY WEEK
Easter is a movable holiday. Easter Sunday falls on the first full moon in spring. It is preceded by the Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday.
- The Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: it is a special time of reconciliation. People also start to tidy up their homes and decorate them for the upcoming festival.
- Holy Thursday begins with the Easter Triduum. The well-known ritual, in the Catholic Church, of washing the feet then follows. This rite dates back to the Middle Ages. The bishops and kings washed the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday as a sign of humility. Holy Thursday is also a symbolic moment of the Last Supper. That’s when the sacraments of the Eucharist and priesthood were established.
- Good Friday is a day of mourning and reflection. Christians then remember the death of Christ, the Passion of Jesus. Traditionally, at 3 p.m., there is a Way of the Cross devotion, praying by the 14 stations. That night, believers have an opportunity for all-night adoration and vigilance as churches are open the whole night. It is one of my favorite moments, sitting at night in the church, in the shade of the candles, and praying or singing. I miss that when I am in India during Easter.
- Holy Saturday is the day of the biggest mourning. There is a day-long adoration of the faithful at the tomb of the dead Jesus.
#4 Eggs decoration
On the morning of the Holy Saturday, people decorate at home Easter eggs, called ‘pisanki’. It is an excellent activity for children, no matter the age. The decorations can be done using the entire egg or the eggshells (egg white and yellow is blown out by making two 0.5 cm holes). I like the eggshells decorations as they can be kept for a long time. There are different decoration methods: ‘kraszanki’ (boiling in a decoction of plants or other natural products), coloring, stickers, scratchers, drawings, etc. It is one of my favorite moments of the Easter celebration.
#5 EASTER BASKET
Once the Easter eggs are ready, Poles start to prepare the Easter food baskets. What is inside the baskets? Bread, eggs, sausage, salt, pepper, cake, horseradish, lamb decoration. Additionally, people decorate the baskets with Easter chickens, bunnies, Easter eggs, boxwood. Food from the baskets is shared during Sunday Easter breakfast. Saturday, is the day when eating meat and fish isn’t allowed. From early morning hours till afternoon or evening, every 15 minutes or so, Easter baskets are blessed in the churches. A beautiful rite which most of the kids love. I remember when I used to fight with my sister. Both of us wanted to carry the Easter basket to the church. Our mom had a solution: for a few years, she used to prepare two baskets.
#6 Easter Breakfast
Easter Sunday starts with a traditional resurrection mass, usually at 6 AM. The bells in the churches ring joyfully with the news that Jesus Christ is risen! After the resurrection, everyone goes home for the Easter breakfast. It includes delicacies from the Easter basket. Apart from it, people enjoy many other dishes. On Christmas Eve, people share the wafer, while on Easter, people share the blessed egg. They wish each other health and prosperity.
#7 Easter BUNNY
The tradition of giving Easter gifts by a bunny (hare) comes from Germany. Of course, kids love it! Usually, gifts are given to children on Sunday morning, after breakfast. However, it may vary depending on the region or family traditions. Many children hunt for Easter gifts at home or in the garden. What is gifted? Easter chocolates are popular gifts, as well as games, toys, anything that kids might love. Do adults receive gifts too? Well, it all depends if they were good or not. 😉
#8 SMIGUS DYNGUS (WET MONDAY)
Easter isn’t over in Poland on Sunday. Monday is a national holiday, a day off at school and work. In comparison, Great Friday is a working day. Monday is Smigus Dyngus day, also known as Lany Poniedzialek (Wet Monday).
It seems to be Poland’s National Water Fight Day. During this day, people throw water at each other, a glass or buckets of water. If you are to visit Poland during Easter for the first time, beware of this day. The tradition is still going strong, especially in smaller towns and villages. I usually used to spend Wet Monday at my grandma’s house in a small town. Once, we had a huge water fight going on in our garden. My grandma kept on teasing all, and we ended up having nearly half of the village fighting altogether in front of our doorstep. Best Wet Monday!
HAPPY EASTER, ALL!
Do you celebrate Easter? If yes, what is your favorite tradition or activity? If not, what did you like the most about the Easter holiday in Poland? Share! Sharing is caring. 🙂
Moments that matter, no matter which Easter day.