Easter (Wielkanoc – Great Night) is celebrated in Poland according to a Catholic tradition with reflections to the old pagan beliefs and traditions.
In Poland we celebrate traditionally with family, following various customs and traditions. The feast lasts for two days (Sunday and Monday). It was once very important not only for religious reasons but also…. culinary. After months of fasting and hunger it was a culinary carnival during which people enjoyed a lot of tasty sausages and cakes. The obligatory cake for Easter was “baba” (a yeast cake) and traditional recipe for wealthier families ordered to take no less than 60 eggs for preparation.
Easter cake (baba)
To this day one of the customs which survived is the celebration of the Easter Palm at Palm Sunday (a week before Easter). Formerly it was believed that Palms are to protect people, animals and farms against witchcrafts and evils. There is rivalry about who produced the highest and the most beautiful palm. Good Friday is a day of a strict fast, and on Saturday people (mostly children) walk into the church with the so-called “święconka” (see photo) – a traditional small basket filled with food: eggs, smoked bacon, salt, pepper, horseradish, bread and cakes. Beautifully decorated basket (traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood) is there blessed by the priest. (This tradition is also present in some parts of Austria and Germany.)
Very religious people begin Easter Sunday by participating in a Mass, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Others or non-believers start the day with traditional Easter breakfast, which obligatory component are beautifully decorated eggs. This is not originally Polish habit, but in Poland decorating eggs is a great artistic tradition.
Eggs are painted or etched in many different patterns, and folk artists can create true works of art.
Traditional Polish Easter morning dishes are: żurek (soup), white sausage, ham, eggs and horseradish.
Sweetness are represented by the Easter yeast cake, cheesecake and mazurka (rectangular or round shape cake covered with various types of mass and delicacies). Indispensable decoration of the table is a lamb or Easter bunny made of sugar or a special cake. During Easter gifts can be given to children, so called “a bunny”.
Easter Monday: śmigus-dyngus
On this day people soak each other with water. This custom refers to the old pagan beliefs. Old Slavs attributed this tradition to ensure health and fertility, water symbolized also the joy of the coming spring. After adoption of Christianity in some regions, early in the morning, hosts sprinkled their fields with holy water. This custom has survived in the southern Poland.
Soaking women with water was the custom of village people, but had been also adopted by courts – in this case water had been replaced by perfume. Most men make fun in sprinkling cold water on women who are still in bed. Ladies do not remain defenseless however, keeping buckets with water under their bed. Sometimes it is better not to go out that day, because of hordes of young men rampanging on the streets with buckets of water.
Generally, besides participating in religious aspect, Easter is a day of family and social visits and recreation.
Photo: Wikipedia, Renata Głuszek, Kasia Olczak, Rose Liliana Baran