Still, lets start from the beginning. Easter celebrations start with the period of Lent. Before the lent starts, there is always Fatty Thursday. It is a Polish counterpart of British Pancake Day. Actually, to be more precise in Poland it is rather Doughnut Day. The holiday is always on the last Thursday before Lent Post. As Fatty Thursday date depends on Easter day, its date is changeable every year. The logic behind the holiday is simple: during lent people should be concerned with salvation and should fast, so before lent people can eat more to prepare themselves for the time of hunger. Typically Polish people eat on this day doughnuts and faworki (cenci – deep fried sweet pastry ribbons). Polish doughnuts are very different from their American version as they don’t have a hole in the middle. On the other hand they have various fillings. The most traditional filling is of rose jam but you can also encounter plum and raspberry jam or chocolate. Average Pole eats about 3-4 doughnuts on this day which is a lot of calories (one doughnut has about 350 kcal). The superstition says that if a person doesn’t eat any doughnut on this day, it will bring bad luck in the future. Therefore, if you want to be successful in the future and you happen to be in Poland on that day Bon Appétit!
One more event that takes place before lent is Shrovetide. This word means the last days of the carnival, which begins on a Fatty Thursday and always ends on a Tuesday, known in Poland as "herring" (probably because on that day, you should go for a party, drink vodka and eat herring with it as a side dish). The next day - Ash Wednesday - marks the beginning of Lent and waiting for Easter. The last big parties are organized in the last few before Ash Wednesday. The lent is a period of abstinence. Lots of people during that time undertake some resolutions for example not to drink alcohol, not to eat sweets or not to dance and go to discos.
As the lent progresses a week before Easter there is Palm Sunday. Its date depends on Easter date and it is Sunday just before Easter Sunday, which can be between the 15th of March and the 18th of April. It commemorates Christ triumphant entry to Jerusalem when people cheered Jesus coming by laying palm leaves at his feet. There are no palm trees in Poland therefore, Polish people make their own palms and take them to church for blessing. In most areas such palms are quite simple bouquets consisting either of catkins branches, boxwood branches or dried flowers. Still, in more traditional regions eg. mountainous south of Poland or famous for its palms Lipnica Murowana village, palms are really something to behold. Complicated and richly decorated structures, that can even have a few meters, are ceremoniously blessed in front of churchgoers. After blessing the palms are obligatory decorations on Easter tables.
Most Christians refer to the week before Easter as "Holy Week", which contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Religious people visit church on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Opposed to many western European countries both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are ordinary working days and Poles usually work on these days. On Good Friday most of Poles abide strict lent during which they eat two small meals after which they are still hungry and only one bigger meal a day. Of course no meat is allowed. No meat is allowable from Good Friday till Resurrection Mass on Saturday Night or Sunday Morning.
On Easter Saturday people prepare baskets with food which they take to churches to be blessed. They are later on eaten during festive family breakfasts on Easter Sunday. The baskets always have bread, butter in shape of Easter lamb, sausage, something sweet and of course Easter eggs. There is a long tradition of decorative Easter Eggs in Poland. Each region has its own technique of decoration. One week before Easter we plant cress at homes to have it as a base of various Easter decorations. We also decorate our homes with birch fresh branches, catkins, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. There are also of course many chicks, lambs, bunnies and Easter eggs decorations.
On Easter Sunday and Monday people celebrate holidays mainly in family circles. Poles buy a lot of chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs for Easter. Easter Bunny brings children presents in small baskets on Easter Sunday morning. Still, it is quite tricky creature as it often hides the presents either in flats and homes or gardens and children have to search for the gifts during egg hunts. Easter is a family holiday during which families gather together especially on Easter Sunday breakfast (when the blessed food from baskets is eaten), dinner and on Easter Monday dinner. Special Easter dishes include: pâté, ham, żurek (soup made from fermented rye flour), white sausage, horseradish sauce, Tatar sauce, beetroot salad, vegetable salad and meat in aspic. There are also some special Easter cakes such as Mazurek, Babka, Sernik, Pascha or Keks.
In Poland only Easter Sunday and Monday are bank holidays. On Easter Monday there is Śmingus Dyngus. The celebration dates back to the 15th century and at the beginning it was a folk celebration. Śmingus Dyngus tradition says that boys and men should pour water on girls and women on that day. The tradition says that the wetter the woman gets, the more luck it will bring and she will find husband sooner. This is why even today we can find children and youngsters with water toy guns or bottles of water or buckets chasing some girls or women on Polish streets. In some parts of Poland girls and women take their revenge on the next day but usually Monday is the wetter day.
Easter Monday usually ends Easter celebrations. In Catholic church the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the 50th day, Pentecost Sunday. Still, Pentecost is not celebrated in any particular way outside of church in Poland.
Spending Easter in Poland is always a good idea to see various Polish Easter customs and celebrate the beginning of warm, bright and longer days. April is usually also the beginning of tourist trip season in Poland that lasts till the end of September or October. If you would like to celebrate Easter in Poland just contact one of our ITS Poland group coordinators and we will happily prepare your stay in Poland.
Author: Agnieszka Szwedzińska