12 Facts about Easter traditions in Poland
When is the main celebration: Easter Sunday (Niedziela Wielkanocna)
Main dish: eggs for breakfast
Main decorations: lamb-shaped cake (Baranek Wielkanocny)
Who brings the presents: Easter bunny (Zajączek Wielkanocny)
How to say “Happy Easter”: Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych (vess–OH–wikh shvyont vyel-kah-NOTS-tikh)
Easter Traditions in Poland
1. Although spring cleaning (wiosenne porządki) is a common practice in other European countries, in many Polish households it is associated with Easter preparation and it’s carried out usually at the beginning of Lent (the period of repentance and self-denial 6 weeks before Easter).
2. Ash Wednesday (Popielec / Środa Popielcowa) is the first day of Lent on which believers go to church to have their heads marked with ash. This tradition dates back to the 18th century.
image source: Wikipedia
3. Holy Week (Wielki Tydzień) is the last week of Lent and the official beginning of Easter celebrations.
4. Palm Sunday (Niedziela Palmowa) symbolises Jesus’ triumphal entry on a donkey into Jerusalem. On this day Polish people prepare special palms which they take to church for a blessing. Palms look different depending on the region but they are usually made of willow or buxus branches decorated with colourful dried flowers and/or feathers. In some Polish cities there are competitions for the tallest or the most beautiful palm. The highest of them can reach even 30 metres and the most popular contests are organised in the towns of Łyse and Lipnica Murowana.
5. After the palms are blessed they are kept in the hose for the whole year. Tradition says that they protect the household from all evil. In the following year they are collected by priests and burnt in a fire outside the church. Their ash is used on Ash Wednesday.
6. On Holy Saturday every Polish household prepares an Easter basket (święconka) which is full of goods that will be eaten on Easter breakfast – the most celebrated Easter meal in Polish culture. In the basket there is usually some bread, eggs, ham, lamb-shaped cake, sausages, salt, horseradish, ćwikła and nowadays also chocolate. The baskets are decorated with white serviettes and flowers or willow/buxus branches. They are taken to church to be blessed by the priest who uses an aspergillum (kropidło – little brush that’s dipped in holy water) and sprinkles holy water over people’s heads and Easter baskets. This tradition dates back to the 7th century.
7. Easter Eggs (pisanki), the multi-national symbol of Easter, are in Poland decorated before being put inside the Easter baskets. There are many ways of decorating eggs depending on the region. One of them called drapanki is made by colouring eggs and scraping different patterns onto them. Kraszanki, which are the most common and the least laborious, are made by boiling eggs in coloured water. Oklejanki are done by pasting dried flowers, cloth or coloured paper onto the eggs. Ażurki are made by first making two little holes in the fresh egg. Then the content of the egg is blown outside (you put your mouth around one hole and blow inside to get the yolk and white on the other end). Later they are cut with a tiny knife or a drill into beautiful lacy patterns.
8. On Easter Sunday (Niedziela Wielkanocna) Polish families celebrate their traditional Easter breakfast and eat all the food that was blessed the day before. The most common Easter food includes: coloured eggs, bread, ham, sausages, horseradish, ćwikła (horseradish mixed with beetroot) and żur (sour rye soup). As a dessert Polish people eat mazurek (flat square cake), baranek (lamb-shaped cake), babka (spongy, brioche-like yeast cake with a hole in the middle), cheesecake and chocolate eggs and bunnies.
9. Before the Easter Breakfast begins, Polish families share Easter eggs with each other wishing their relatives all the best. Sharing eggs, which is pretty similar to sharing holy bread (opłatek) at Christmas, involves first cracking the eggs against your relatives’ eggs. Whose ever egg is the most cracked, is considered the most unlucky. Then you bite off (or cut off, if you’re slightly more posh) your relatives’ eggs and give them Easter wishes.
10. After breakfast many families spend their time of gift giving. As a child you are told that it’s the Easter Bunny (or actually Easter Hare, Zajączek Wielkanocny) that brings you presents.
11. Easter celebrations end in Poland on Easter Monday (Poniedziałek Wielkanocny / Lany Poniedziałek) when the cruel tradition of Śmingus-Dyngus is performed. Traditionally, boys throw water over girls (gentlemen use perfume) and spank them with pussy willow branches. Every Polish girl and woman fears this day as this tradition is often abused and there is no way you can get away with getting soaking wet! The most popular tools for this horrible custom are water guns and large buckets.
You can get the ideas by watching this video by batolomeo150.
12. The most common symbols of Easter in Poland include: lamb and lamb-shaped cake, Easter bunny (or ‘hare’ in Polish), chicks, Easter palms, spring flowers (e.g. daffodils), buxus and pussy willow.
- Petr Kratochvil – Easter eggs in the basket
- George Hodan – pussy willow