Polish traditinal Easter celebrations can sweep you off your feet!!
Easter starts with the Palm Sunday commemorating Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The main attribute associated with that day are the palms but despite of the name they hardly resemble the real palm branches. Typically, they are bouquets of common box, dried flowers and willow twigs,moss, herbs, coloured feathers and ribbons. It is believed that a palm blessed at a mass has special properties as it can prevent diseases as well as bring wealth and bumper crops. A village of Lipnica Murowana is known for it’s famous palm contest. Some of them reach even several metres high (36m!!)
The day of Christ’s death is a day of fasting and commemorating the Way of the Cross also called “Calvary”. The most famous Calvary takes place in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (Zebrzydowska Calvary), a small town located only 40km away from Kraków. The Passion play – a theatrical depiction of the suffering and death of Christ attracts thousands of worshippers.
“Holy Sepulchres” are set up in churches. The installations of figures of Christ resting in grottos are rich in symbolism and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Apart from their religious significance, the tombs sometimes refer to Polish history, current events, and social issues. The most exceptional Sepulchres are presented in the Piar’s Church, Franciscan’s Church and Order of Capuchin Friars Minor Church in Kraków.
On Holy Saturday people bring baskets of their Easter food( „święconka” ) to church for a special blessing. The basket should contain at least seven kinds of food, each with its own symbolism. Bread, a symbol of Christ’s body, ensures good fortune. Eggs stands for re-birth and life’s victory over death. Dyed, painted, scrapped off eggs are very often small masterpieces shared within a familly members and friends. Salt is a life-giving mineral, believed to keep away an evil. Smoked meat ensures health, fertility and abundance. Cheese represents friendship between man and nature. Horseradish isa symbol of strength and physical fitness. Easter Cake symbolizes skills and perfection.
As tradition requires, Easter breakfast,held after the Resurrection Mass, begins with a sharing of the blessed eggs.An Easter table is lavishly laid with hams, sausages, pâtés, roulades, roast pork loins, a variety of poultry dishes, eggs, pound cakes, mazureks, round wheat cakes, cheesecakes, etc.. One of the compulsory dishes is sour „żur”soup with white sausage or smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg and white sausage. Chocolate Easter bunnies, chickens and lambs are kids’ favourites.
A traditional śmigus-dyngus, is a day on which boys used to sprinkle girls with water. Maidens sprinkled with water on that day had a greater chance of getting married.
Nowadays one should not forget about the whole family and friends as well as a total strangers 😉 This rite of purification symbolizes a good health and fertility. Cracow has its unique Emaus festivity. This folk tradition commemorates the meeting oftwo disciples with the Risen Jesus on the road to Emaus. It’s a great pleasure to wander between many market stalls filled with a traditional toy depicting a Jew holding a coin, modern plastic gadgets, candyfloss and other goodies.