Wielkanoc (wielka + noc) – The Great Night. Very important days for Catholics in Poland. But is Easter the only reason to celebrate? Let’s check it out.
Polish Easter traditions are kind of a mix of catholic (main religion) and Slavic (pagan, pre-Christian) customs.
On the one hand, we have Easter – a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus (it is the most important Catholic holiday) and around the same time, spring is coming. Let’s check how those two traditions interweave.
Everything is starting already some weeks before Easter. It is a fasting time (it is starting the day after Tłusty Czwartek – Fat Thursday, the end of carnival). Catholics suppose fasting 40 days before Easter to commemorate the time Jesus spent in the desert. During that time we have also in Poland end of Winter and our cuisine for ages was very poor. We used to eat what was left from Summer and Autumn and it was not much left.
Then 21st of March is spring starting. Days are becoming longer and nights shorter. It is time to clean. To clean the house and the garden from Winter and all evil forces. And parallel prepare houses for Easter celebration.
Wielki Tydzień – The Great Week
It is starting with Niedziela Palmowa (Easter Sunday). Catholics go to churches with palms (palemka). This symbolizes palms that were used to welcome Jesus who was entering Jerusalem.
Those palms are mostly made from willow twigs. And willow tree for Slavs was the symbol of fertility and evil forces. For ages, we used to whip each other with them to ensure fertility. Over time, the catholic church (not being able to abolish this pagan custom) gave it a new symbolism – stroking with twigs is a memory of the martyrdom of scourged Christ.
The next important day is Wielki Piątek – The Great Friday. The day when Jesus died. That day is a strict post. Catholics are supposed not to eat meat and eat only a little.
Wielka Sobota – The Great Saturday
That day everything is related to święconka – a basket with some food what Catholics take to churches to be blessed by a priest.
As far we know it is the echo of the Slavic tradition. They celebrated the coming spring with a feast and they used to gather with the others. The food was also blessed by some witcher.
Let’s see what all the easter baskets (btw – traditionally they are made from some mentioned earlier willow twigs) should contain.
A must-have for every święconka are eggs. Traditionally they suppose to be decorated – painted, boiled in water with some leaves (e.g onion), covered with some fabric. The techniques are different and names also. The most popular name for those colorful eggs is “pisanki”.
Besides eggs present must be: a lamb made of butter or cake, white sausage, ham, cake (like mazurek or babka), salt and pepper. More I talk about it and present it during my live (video below). So don’t forget to click it after you will read the whole post.
Such a prepared basket is taken to the church and blessed by a priest.
Days before Easter are days when we (besides cleaning and cooking) decorate our houses and buy some plants for our gardens and balconies.
The most popular Easter flowers are tulips and daffodils. We also decorate our places with some hares and chickens as a symbol of a new life. So spring as well Easter is all about the same: reborn life.
Wielka Niedziela – The Great Sunday
The most important day for Catholics – the day Jesus was resurrected. They start this day with a mass and afterward with the Easter breakfast (śniadanie wielkanocne).
The first thing to do is to share the blessed eggs with all people gathered at the table. Everyone also should try other blessed food.
What do we eat for that special breakfast?
Eggs, traditional Polish salad, pate, ham, sausages, different types of pickles and sauces. Later on, we eat some cakes: mazurek, babka, sernik and for dinner żurek (ray, sourdough soup) and roasted meat.
More about that (all in Polish!) you will find in our video below. So click here and learn a little bit more about Polish traditions and customs.
What do we put in the Easter basket, what don’t we put in the Easter basket? Do you know now? Test yourself!