Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Easter is commonly celebrated holiday in Poland – by many it is thought to be even more important period than Christmas. It is the time sacrificed to family, meditation and church visits. Throughout the years, however, Polish people cultivated their own traditions of Easter – as well as foods and recipes that are sometimes specific only for given regions of the country or are simply just a family tradition handed down from mothers to their daughters.
No matter the region, during Easter in each house one will find hard-boiled eggs as they are the symbol of life, fertility and hope. Easter eggs are, however, embellished – and throughout the years the Poles created various types of those embellishments. They can be simply coloured, covered beforehand with wax or scratched after having been dyed, some people paint them while others stick on them woollen yarn. Apart from this, there are some regions that have their own exquisite patterns of eggs’ embellishments – some of them became artistic craft and whole activity of Easter preparation is strong family tradition.
My family has no artistically skilled members, therefore our Easter eggs are simple. We boil them in water with leaves from red onion what makes them gain reddish colour. Afterwards we take a razor blade and scratch various patterns on them – flowered ones, image of the Host or simply a sign “Alleluja” (Hallelujah) that stands for “Let’s praise Yah”.
Easter eggs’ preparation takes place usually on Good Friday as Saturday is the day when the priest blesses the food brought to the church in the baskets. Blessing of the Baskets takes place in all the churches usually from the morning till afternoon. Among the food – apart from mentioned eggs – one can find also bread, sausages, sweets, salt or symbols of Easter (such as hare, lamb or chicken) made of sugar, gypsum or plastic. The baskets are embellished with boxtree branches and covered with table cloth or doily (specially kept for that moment).
Among the traditional food that one can find in every Polish family’s house there is grated horseradish, beetroot mixed with horse-radish or “Babka Wielkanocna” (yeast-cake filled sometimes with raisins, other delicacies and its taste is strengthened with essence of orange or lemon).
When people, from children to seniors, gather in the church of Holy Saturday, they wait for the priest to come and bless the food they brought. The priest sprinkles all the baskets with holy water and afterwards the food can be brought home to be consumed, traditionally, on following Sunday.
Of course many Easter traditions differ all around Poland and are sometimes influenced by other nationalities that lived in given areas. In some regions for example traditional cake is Mazurek (flat cake made usually on a pastry or wafer and covered with delicacies or other ingredients) and people hide the eggs from children so that they would enjoy searching for them. No matter slight differences in traditions all Poles greet each other during Easter with an expression “Wesolego Alleluja” (what stands for: “Happy Hallelujah”).