Holidays are a special time, meaning relaxation, and meetings with your family. In Poland, except for Christmas, we equally festively celebrate Easter. There are painted eggs, colourful palms, and even… a cold shower! Do you want to know more? Read on!
Yellow chickens and colourful eggs
Preparations for Easter usually start a few days or even weeks earlier. Similarly as during Christmas there must be a Christmas tree or star-shaped ornaments, decorations made of fake chickens, bunnies, and lambs are an inherent part of Easter. There is also a custom of decorating egg shells in Poland. Depending on the amount of time, willingness, and abilities, the eggs can be painted, stained using the onion’s skin, or plastered snippets of paper, fabrics, wool, or even plants. While adorning the rooms, colourful blown eggs – empty egg shells – are used, with eggs decorated after boiling beautifying the Easter table, being a component of the Easter breakfast at the same time. Eggs, just like other Easter symbols, symbolize the nature coming back to life.
Even though, as you’ve probably noticed, there are no naturally growing palms in Poland, during the Easter time there is plenty of them, and they can be found in every colour of the rainbow. How is that possible? All because of the custom of preparing the Easter palms, made from a palm branch or willow with added herbs, dried and fake flowers. They are often also decorated with pieces of colourful tissue paper, paper, or tapes. We take the prepared palms with us to the procession that passes through the city streets on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, as a remembrance of Jesus arriving to Jerusalem. The palms are also a decoration in houses, which are supposed to bring a family happiness.
With baskets to the church
Holy Saturday, that is Easter Eve, is for Poles the time for blessing food. We go to the church with wicker baskets to have the food inside of it – bread, salt and pepper, painted eggs, sugar lamb, horseradish, a sausage, and a piece of cake, blessed. Every one of those symbolize life, fertility, and wealth, or the victory of life over death and good over evil. The inside of the basket is decorated with boxwood branches, which is also a sign of the new life. Everything is then covered with a white napkin.
The Easter breakfast
Easter Sunday starts with a formal breakfast with our close family. There is a beautifully decorated table, the ornaments with bunnies and lambs, and a lot of food. That’s when we eat the food from the Easter basket, which was blessed the day before, dividing it between all the family members. Among the dishes, there are white borsch, sausages, pies, and meat roulades. There is also no shortage of sweet accents, that is mazurek – a traditional, very sweet cake with dried fruit and nuts – as well as babka, poppyseed cake, and cheesecake.
With buckets to the streets
Although Easter usually falls early in the spring and the weather isn’t conducive to bathing outside, but there is one day in the year when we can expect a wet surprise. It is Easter Monday, also known in Poland as “Wet Monday”. Instead of the ringing of an alarm, we are woken by a splash of water, with which one of our family members decides to surprise us. And leaving the house we are wary, for we may find a group of young people hiding behind a tree or a wall with buckets filled with cold water! Where does such an original custom come from? It has a long-standing tradition in Poland and initially it symbolized the spring purification from illnesses and filth, and later on also from the sin. Water was particularly keenly poured over girls. It was an honour somewhat among other women, and being overlooked meant being disregarded.
Depending on the region of Poland, you can encountered many more, different Easter customs. That celebration, however, always means the closeness of family members, and highlights both our national characters and Polish hospitability.