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Nowadays, Polish Easter traditions vary from household to household, just like they differ a bit when compared to different times in history. And many customs take from Polish pagan traditions. Still, this being one of the most important celebrations of Christianity as well as one of the most anticipated of Polish spring traditions, it is loved and celebrated both by people who declare themselves as non-believers, to those who go to church regularly. Here are some of the Polish Easter customs that you will most likely come across in any Polish home.
Let’s look at Easter traditions in Poland by explaining a bit of history first:
Easter in Christianity celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and as such, it is one of the most important feasts. Its date is movable, as it is always celebrated on a Sunday - in Catholicism, the first one after the first full moon in spring (which means that it falls sometime between 21st March to 25th April). The sole period of Easter begins 40 days before Easter Sunday, on a day called Ash Wednesday. This is where lent begins, commemorating the 40 days that Christ had spent in the desert tempted by the Devil. During this time, people restrain from entertainment and parties, some restrain themselves from food, and all of this leads up to the Good Friday, the day that Christ is believed to have died. The same goes for Easter in Poland.
The Polish word for Easter is Wielkanoc (which translates roughly to ‘’The Big Night’’). The week before Easter Sunday is marked with numerous celebrations and is called the Holy Week, marking the death of Jesus Christ, while the Sunday before Easter Sunday is called ‘’Niedziela Palmowa’’ (Palm Sunday in Polish). The belief is that it was the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and then a colt.
Polish Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, starts with people going to church to bless ‘’palm branches’’ (created from willow trees as no palms grow natively in Poland). Polish Easter palms are beautifully decorated, and can be both bought or made yourself from. As Jesus was greeted by people waving palm leaves at him, Palm Sunday traditions are an homage to that moment. The branches are then kept in households for good luck, and there are even competitions held for making the most beautiful palm.
When it comes to Polish Good Friday traditions - these usually involve a day of fasting, introspective and visiting the graves of the loved ones.
The day before Easter Sunday is a day of preparation - Holy Saturday. People put together baskets with food to be blessed in the morning. These baskets usually include hard boiled eggs, a lamb made of sugar, bread, salt, horseradish and cold meat, as well as a traditional cake. Because of that, Polish Easter breakfast is the most important meal of the celebration, eaten after the Sunrise Service, among the immediate family. The blessed foods from the basket are the first to be shared. Polish Easter food is also rich in hot dishes, like the traditional żurek (sour rye soup) and cakes for dessert. Although there is no custom of Polish Easter gifts like there is for Christman, kids are often given chocolate bunnies. Some families chose to give small presents for the occasion. There is also a game that is played at the table - cracking Polish Easter eggs! Family members compete so that the one whose hard boiled Easter egg is shattered the last, is the winner!
When it comes to Polish Easter dinner - it is not a mandatory part of the Polish Easter traditions as people are usually already tired by then. That said, some households celebrate traditional Polish Easter dinner. This way delicious Easter food in Poland goes on all throughout the day and as long as there are leftovers!
Another Polish holiday after Easter takes place only a day after! Easter Monday in Poland is also known as Śmigus-dyngus (or Wet Monday). It falls on the very first Monday after Easter Sunday. It is one of the Easter traditions most loved by children, as you’re supposed to splash other people you come across that day with water - the first one to splash the other is the winner! This tradition takes back from pagan customs in relation to the spring awakening, but also as a form of courtship among young people.
Polish Easter egg tradition is a central theme of this holiday. Easter eggs symbolize new life and birth and have been a part of the celebrations even from the pagan times. The word pisanki comes from the Polish word meaning “to write”, as they are not just common eggs served at Easter, but beautifully decorated eggs made specially for the occasion. There are different techniques you can use to create your own beautiful Polish pisanki, not only by writing on them with wax, as is done traditionally - there is also decoupage, and simple coloring and using stickers that you can go for. The key is to be the most creative, so even though spring motifs are the most common, you can go for your own designs. To learn more about the Easter eggs art, watch the video below:
Now that you’ve learned about the Polish Easter traditions - let’s learn how to say ‘’Happy Easter’’ in Polish!
Polish Easter greetings vary from those formal ones. Some may say simply: '’Wesołych Świąt’’ (Happy Holidays) or '’Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych’’ (Happy Easter Holidays), while others will say '’Wesołego Alleluja’’ (Happy Hallelujah) or even create their own, fun greeting or wishing someone Happy Easter in Polish.
Polish Easter is truly a lovely tradition that brings the whole family together. So if you have never experienced Polish Easter customs, try them out this year! Easter in Poland is filled with little traditions that you can easily follow in the comfort of your own home (like making your own Polish Easter eggs), or you can find a Polish Catholic church and experience the blessing of the palms as well.
Wesołego jajka! (Happy egg!)
Learn how to say Happy Easter In Polish with Pawel!
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