Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Easter is preceded with Palm Sunday – when the Poles carry embellished palms (most of the time made of dry flowers and ears of corn or paper embellishments) to get them blessed in the during the service. In some of Polish churches there are various competitions that take place after the Sunday mass – people compete to have the longest, the biggest or the most beautiful palm. Those, not interested in competition, may purchase beautiful Easter palms at the church before the service.
The most important day of Easter is Good Friday that should be for Catholics the day of contemplation, prayer and grieve as it symbolizes the day when Jesus Christ was crucified. Some of the churches, like the one in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in South of Poland, organize performances during which the passion of Jesus is depicted. Numerous pilgrims crowd in Kalwaria to take part in this event and to worship this way the sacrifice that God gave to the world.
Children’s favourite day of the Holy Week is most probably Holy Saturday. Although there are no services taking place in Polish churches on that day, from early morning people gather there to worship Holy Sacrament. Apart from this people bring their food in small, decorative baskets so that the priest could bless it. Among the food one can find bread, salt, cold cuts, sweets (very often in a shape of rabbits, chickens or lamb). The basket cannot lack in eggs – beautifully painted, painted and scratched, embellished with stickers, colourful paper, died in red leaves of onion, herbs or simply paint bought in the shop – so called ‘pisanka’. The eggs symbolize life, health, love and fertility. Easter eggs express hope for revival. The Christians put in the basket food that they needed to restrain from during the Lent. All the baskets in Poland are embellished with decorative doilies and small branches of box-tree. The baskets are taken to the church by the youngest and the oldest who impatiently await the moment when they are allowed to consume the blessed food. It is the tradition that breakfast on Easter Sunday is made of those very blessed products. Another popular meal is ‘zurek’ – sour soup enriched with egg and sausage that were taken in the basket.
Sunday – the main day of Easter holidays – is the day when Jesus Christ resurrected. As Easter holidays (similar to Christmas) is the time that we spend with our relations, Easter Sunday is the day of family visits.
Easter Monday is called in Poland ‘smigus – dyngus’ or simply ‘Wet Monday’. It is the day when people splash water on each other. At homes it became rather symbolic tradition while still some people (especially young girls – as they are the most frequent target) are afraid to leave home during that day. As Sigus-Dyngus derives from couple beautiful traditions, nowadays it very often turns into the water fight. As the water was supposed to bring symbolic purification from illnesses, dirt and sin, people would splash on each other a little bit of water. Nowadays it is hard to get away without getting drenched.
Many discuss whether Easter is more important holiday than Christmas. Maybe indeed celebrating Jesus' death does not seem as joyful as celebrating His birth. However, the Holy Week brings also hope for revival and new life.