Easter in Poland seems to be for many Poles the most important Christian celebration, even more important than Christmas. It also involves a lot of preparations to all events which take place every year and without which, Polish Easter wouldn’t be traditional and that’s what seems to attract and gather Polish families especially at this time of the year.
It all starts with the Palm Sunday, which in Christianity is the Sunday a week before the Easter Sunday. On this day, the Poles gather in their churches and carry Easter palms, traditionally made of willow branches and decorated with paper flowers and ribbons. In many regions of the country, there are contests organised for the tallest Easter palm. The record breaking so far was a palm nearly 33,5 metres tall.
Colourful Pisanki and Blessing of the Food
Then, it all comes to the food and starts with coloured eggs, called in Polish pisanki. Eggs are boiled and then coloured in different patterns in different techniques. Their creativity always refers to spring and Easter. In Polish traditions, Easter is also nicknamed An Egg Holiday, because of the amount of eggs prepared and eaten in this time. Eggs are present all the time on the Polish Easter tables. They also have to appear inside the Easter Basket.
This tradition comes to life on Easter Saturday, when the Poles go to their local churches to have the food blessed by the priest. There are some crucial ingredients, which have to be put in the rattan basket, which usually is decorated with small branches of boxwood. The variety of food also consists of a slice of bread, a slice of cake, salt, black pepper, grated horseradish and a piece of smoked meat. The basket is usually decorated with a small figure of a chicken or an Easter ram carrying a cross.
All the food in the basket is not accidental. It has its sacred meaning. It is believed that a ram symbolizes the Passion of the Christ, bread: the Body of the Christ, egg: life and victory over death, salt: truth and protection from evil, smoked meat: health and wealth, horseradish: strength and finally cake shows if the lady of the house is able to provide good food for her household.
Easter Babka, Mazurek and an Amazing Pate
In all, most traditional Polish households, the ladies of the house prepare unusual meals, which have to appear on the Easter table. First they bake cakes. And they’re not just plain cakes, as the tradition demands two specific types. The first one is called Easter Babka, a quick sponge cake baked in deep tins and then decorated with icing, small branches of boxwood and a small statue of an Easter ram.
The other one is so called Mazurek, which is a flat, usually hard, lavishly sweet cake, covered with icing and decorated with as many sweet extras, as possible. In some households there are 12 of them, small ones and each of a different flavor.
On every Easter table in Poland there must also be a homemade pate. Traditionally, it’s made from seven different kinds of meat, minced three times and baked with all necessary ingredients. The pate is usually served with another Polish specialty: horseradish and boiled, grated beetroots.
Easter Sunday Breakfast and the Wet Monday
The celebration of the first day of Easter in Poland starts in early morning with a holy mass preceded by a procession around the church and the ceremonial proclamation of the Christ’s resurrection. This refers to the biblical resurrection of the Christ 3 days after his crucifiction. Then, the whole families gather at the table to share blessed eggs and begin their festive breakfast.
All the meals appear on the table but on this day, the most important is white borsch made from white sausage and smoked bacon. Some Polish hostesses start preparing the borsch a few days before Easter, as the base for this traditional soup should consist of rye flour, a piece of whole-meal bread, garlic and water, all pickled for a few days and finally ready to boil.
After the breakfast and the Easter bunny’s presents, many Polish families visit churches to see the traditional graves of the Christ. The Easter afternoon and evening are quiet, relaxing and family orientated. But the traditions are not over yet. There’s one more to come the very next day.
Wet Monday is loved by children, but almost hated by many others because of its specific ritual. As tradition demands, everyone has to pour water on everyone and has to be soaked with water as well. However, what starts as fun, sometimes turns into yobbish frolics. No one minds splashes of water, but it is reported every year that youngsters throw buckets of water into cars through open windows, buses through the doors. Therefore it’s much better to stay indoors and leave the house only when necessary.
Many Poles tend to dispute over the superiority of Easter over Christmas or the other way round. With the migration of Poles all over the world, traditional Easter celebrations could be happening just next door. It’s always good to get to know something one hasn’t experienced yet, so now is a chance.