The Tradition of Easter
Poland is a country full of unique traditions and customs, especially those rooted in the Catholic faith. One of the most important holidays is that of Easter. For many, celebrating Easter starts a week prior on Palm Sunday followed by the Holy Week, Easter Saturday and Sunday and finally concluding with a rather wet Easter Monday.
Palm Sunday commemorates Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem. It marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, during which time the faithful prepare themselves to celebrate Easter. To mark Palm Sunday colorful “palms”, traditionally made from willow branches and decorated with evergreen plants, are brought into churches on that day. Some of these palms can reach over 19 feet.
The Holy Week is marked with various spiritual and traditional celebrations. Polish families prepare their homes for Easter with spring cleaning, shopping and preparing foods associated with this particular holiday. One of the most colorful tradition, which also requires practice and skill, is that of making Pisanki. This Polish version of a traditional Easter Egg is often hand painted and richly ornamented.
On Easter Saturday, baskets of traditional Easter food are taken to church to be blessed. This food, after being blessed, is then eaten as a part of the Easter Sunday meal known as the Easter Breakfast. The Easter Breakfast consists of hard-boiled eggs, cold meats, babka and other dishes, including a cake in the form of a lamb to symbolize Jesus Christ. Easter Monday is a family holiday in Poland and is called Smigus Dyngus, or Wet Monday, after the practice of men and boys pouring water all over the women and girls. Today however, the tradition isn't necessarily limited to males pouring water on females, the roles are often reversed. Regional variations of the tradition are also known to occur, and a woman's married status may protect her from being doused with water. However, it is best to assume that on this day, no one is safe from the Smigus Dyngus tradition!