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Friday, 30 March 2018

7 Odd Easter Traditions in Poland

Dearest hearts,

Easter is just knocking at our door, is it not?! Depending on your faith, you may be celebrating Easter tomorrow - 1st of April (and that ain't no lie!) - If you are Catholic, or next week if you are Orthodox. Sometimes Easter falls at the same day for those of both Catholic and Orthodox faith, but not this year. Poland is a country of unique traditions that are still being kept alive, especially when it comes to the big holidays - like Christmas and Easter. Easter though is considered a bigger holiday than Christmas. 
Krakow Easter Market
So let's try and get a bit more familiar with this holiday. Well... you might (or might not) know that the week before Easter is named Holy Week and that during that week a lot of things tend to happen ;) but before we get into details, you need to know that the main celebration is called "Niedziela Wielkanocna" (Easter Sunday). The main dish that everyone has is eggs (boiled and pretty decorated, if possible hand painted) - they are called "pisanki". They are usually eaten with plenty of horseradish. The main decoration is the "Baranek Wielkanocny" (Easter Lamb) - which can be a baked cake or make out of white sugar. A borrowed tradition is the Easter bunny ("Zajaczek Wielkanocny") that brings presents / sweets to the little ones. 
Colorful Easter Market in Krakow's Main Market Square 
But without any further ado, let me tell you about some odd Easter Traditions in Poland:
1. Spring cleaning - everyone does it nowdays, cleaning each quarter the house - completely, is a must - so that things don't clutter up. But the Polish people see this as a Easter preparation and it usually starts at the beginning of Lent. Maybe it is also done as a way to self repent on the dirtiness and the clusters building in our house... Maybe it's a way in which one would have time to rethink their life and get a more minimalistic view over things. We are just passing through life, we should not accumulate so many things!
2. Ash Wednesay - the first day of Lent. The Catholic people go to church this day to have their foreheads marked in ash. It is a holy day of prayer and fasting. It comes from "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). This custom dates from the 18th century.
Easter Market Krakow - Niedziela Palmowa 
3. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week and it is one of the most colorful and popular events. In Polish it is called "Niedziela Palmowa" and it symbolises Jesus triumphal entry on a donkey to Jerusalem, where people on his way put Palm leaves and their clothes on the ground in order to make a rug on which Jesus might walk. Of course there are no Palms in Poland due to the weather but people are inventive! They make them out of willow or bus is branches decorates with dry flowers and colorful ribbons. The highest of them reach even 12+ stories tall! There are huge contests organised in the big cities but the best are in the town of Lyse and Lipnica Murowana.
4. The Easter Basket - usually gets taken by the children in the household to be blessed at church. They put in goods that will be eaten on the Easter breakfast: bread, eggs, ham, lamb shaped cake, sausages, salt, horseradish and especially for the kids, some chocolate. The priest blesses the baskets with a little brush dipped in holy water. The tradition dates back to 7th century! And you will also find this is Romanian culture ;)
Wooden "pisanki" at the local Easter Market in Poland
5. Easter Eggs - Pisanki - there are plenty of ways in which one can decorate them, according to the region. Also depending on that the eggs will have different patterns. The most used version are the "kraszanki" - boiling eggs in coloured water. "Oklejanki" - pasting dried flowers, cloth or coloured paper to the eggs. For example, boiling eggs with beetroot will make them red. There are plenty of other ways, including some where you make small holes and take the inside out, making the shell as a delicate lace... if only one could have so much patience. 
6. Egg cracking contest - we do have the same tradition in Romania and I love It! You take the egg and your family member takes another one and tries to crack yours. In Poland, whomever has the most cracked egg is considered the most unlucky. In Romania, whomever cracks someone else's egg can take it away as a prize. 
Wikipedia representation of Smingus-Dyngus
7. Smingus-Dyngus aka "Lany Poniedzialek" aka Wet Monday - Easter Monday in Poland and Ukraine. This day boys throw water over girls (gentleman use perfume) and spank them with willow branches. Also the boys can use this moment to make verse declaration and they love to do door to door processions. It dates from pagan times (before 1000 AD). This can also happen inside the city, not only in the country side! So please be careful next Monday, girls! Better be safe then wet ;)))
Do you ladies and gentlemen know any other odd Easter Traditions in Poland? Would love to hear your voice on this topic. In the meanwhile I wish you a very Happy Easter next to the ones you love! 

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves Easter 

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