Easter in Poland: Polish Easter traditions
Unlike Christmas, Easter holidays can fall any time between March 22 and April 25. Easter celebrations dates in 2018:
Palm Sunday (Niedziela Palmowa) MARCH 25, 2018
It starts the Easter celebrations. There are processions around the church to commemorate the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. People bring „palms” (palmy wielkanocne) made of paper flowers, dried flowers, and twigs.
Good Friday (Wielki Piątek) MARCH 30, 2018
Good Friday commemorates passion and crucifixion of Jesus. In Warsaw and other cities, there are processions on the streets – people carrying a huge cross and contemplating passion of Jesus. In Poland, for many people, it’s a day of fasting – no meat, no parties, no alcohol.
Holy Saturday (Wielka Sobota) MARCH 31, 2018
Święconka – people bring baskets filled with food to churches to get a special blessing. Baskets usually include eggs as symbol of rebirth (pisanki – boiled eggs painted in various colors and patterns), bread, salt, sausage, sometimes other food – chocolate, cake, horseradish etc. Food from Święconka basket is shared the next morning during festive Easter breakfast.
Easter Day (Wielkanoc) APRIL 1, 2018
Bank holiday in Poland (always on Sunday anyway). Easter Sunday commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. Many people start the day with 6 am morning mass (Rezurekcja). Key event of a day – a family breakfast that starts with eating Święconka, then żurek soup (also known as white barszcz), bigos, sausage with horseradish, mazurek cake.
Easter Monday (Poniedziałek Wielkanocny) APRIL 2, 2018
Bank holiday in Poland. Śmigus dyngus – an old tradition in which people use buckets (kids usually play with water guns) to soak each other with water. It’s safe to stay home and avoid water fights. Another Easter Monday tradition is to beat legs with willow branch or Palms (the ones used for Palm Sunday).
Painted eggs (pisanki )
Kids at schools and homes decorate hard-boiled eggs in shells: with paints, markers, crayons. During Easter season, you can find in stores and even small delis paints and stickers dedicated to egg decoration. We usually buy color tablets that dissolve in water (each tablet in a glass of water, you put eggs into the water for few minutes).
More advanced techniques include wax decorating, and the old school way our grandmas did it: coloring eggs in boiling water with onion skins and vinegar.
If you want to go organic: boil eggs in water with 1 spoon of vinegar and addition of turmeric (kurkuma in Polish), beetroots or spinach.
Easter basket with food samples (święconka)
Święconka is a small basket decorated with lace napkins and boxwood twigs. What you will find inside? It depends on the region of Poland and family, but basically: eggs (pisanki), ham or sausage, bread, salt, cake, horseradish, plus Easter lamb (baranek in Polish) made of sugar or butter. People bring baskets to be blessed to the church on Saturday for a short ceremony. The basket content is kept home until Easter morning breakfast.
Święconka basket process step by step:)
Easter breakfast on Sunday (śniadanie wielkanocne)
The key event of Easter traditional celebrations. Families gather in the morning to have a festive breakfast (lots of food, and I mean lots of food!;). It starts with sharing food samples from the święconka basket (similar to sharing Christmas wafer – opłatek) and exchanging wishes (like Wesołego Alleluja – Happy Easter / Hallelujah).
Easter game also known as egg fighting. There are lots of colored eggs (remember – hard-boiled ones!), and the first important step is to select the best egg – everyone in the family has his or her secret criteria like shape or size. Then you play against each another, tapping the opponent’s egg. If your egg is winning (unbroken), you play against another participant. And the winner? The one who is left with an unbroken egg. Essential rule: don’t tap the side of the eggs, only the tip (tip to tip or tip to end). When I was a little girl I loved this game, until mama was announcing that we had to eat all those broken eggs…;)
Searching for Easter Bunny
Kids search for Easter Bunny / gifts (relatively modest ones compared to Christmas, sometimes just chocolate bunny or eggs) all over home. In some families in Poland, children are supposed to create a nest where Easter Bunny would leave presents.
Wet Monday (lany poniedziałek, śmigus dyngus)
It starts innocently in the morning. In my family, my dad used to wake us up pouring some water or …perfume (additionally, and it’s another crazy Easter tradition, he used to beat our legs with willow branches!:). Then kids play all day with water toys (water guns, plastic eggs, Polish stores are full of them before Easter). And finally, there is Polish Water Fight Day: people use BUCKETS of water to soak one another. It’s safe to stay home on Monday to avoid water fights and watch them only on Polish news channels;)
Cress (rzeżucha – is it even possible to pronounce it?!)
You may notice in Polish stores before Easter small bags with cress seeds. It’s fast-growing (kids will love to observe growing – you can notice it even the next day!), edible, very healthy herb. It’s a tradition in Poland to grow cress for Easter – not only to eat it but also for decorative purposes. You can grow cress indoor in a shallow container, plastic food tray or just a plate. Line it with a wet kitchen towel, sprinkle seeds, and water a bit every day. Cut leaves with scissors.
Baking Easter cakes
The most popular Polish Easter cake is mazurek (unlike other cakes we eat during Easter time, mazurek is served only during Easter and you won’t find it another time of the year). It’s a flat cake, similar to tart, topped with fruit jam, almonds, dried fruit, caramel or chocolate. It’s usually beautifully decorated.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will love Easter time in Poland. Apart from mazurek, you can try babka (similar to Italian panettone, yeast cake with a whole in the middle, usually with raisins, candied orange zest, and icing), cheesecake or makowiec (poppy seed cake).
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