1. Palm Sunday right before Easter
This one does not seem unusual at all if you are familiar with Christian traditions. To commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, his followers around the world bring small palm branches to church a week before Easter. We all know what the plant should look like, but Polish people have a different concept of that. Palms in Poland are usually made of artificial colourful flowers and ribbons, as pictured in the photograph on the right. They can measure up to a few metres, although standard church-goers buy small palms, which do not resemble real palm tree branches at all. Making DIY palms is also a popular pastime for children.
2. Pisanki – Easter eggs
Another popular form of entertainment for Polish children is decorating chicken eggs. Again, this does not seem unusual for foreigners as eggs are a popular Easter symbol, but kids in Poland use quite original materials to dye them and get the desired effect: onion skins or beetroot juice. It is definitely more demanding than just putting paint on them or decorating them with stickers!
3. Bring your food to church
On Saturday mornings right before Easter, Polish people put their serious face on and prepare a mysterious basket full of food. Most foreigners (except for those coming from Central and Eastern Europe) must wonder what it is about. What is put inside? Obligatory elements: meat and sausages (preferably white ones), hard-boiled eggs (and decorated Easter eggs as well), salt, pepper, horseradish and bread. Many Poles also add cakes baked at home, chocolate, sweets and other treats. What is next? This heavy load of food in a decorative basket (as you can see on the left) is taken by entire family to church, where it gets blessed by a priest. After that it is put back in the fridge and eaten on the next day, Easter Sunday, as a promise of good luck in months to come.
4. No gifts at all?
In contrast to Western countries, Polish people have only recently started to celebrate Easter by giving gifts to children. If a family decides to introduce this new tradition, small presents are usually given by the Easter Bunny, who is obviously not a native of Poland. If you happen to celebrate Easter with a Polish family, kids will be delighted if you bring them presents, but it is not a must. Focus on small meaningful gifts, if you feel obliged to bring them at all.
5. Wet Monday
Last but not least is the craziest Polish Easter tradition. As Easter Monday is a bank holiday in Poland, people have time to preserve a tradition reaching back to its pagan roots – Śmigus-Dyngus. Although nobody knows the exact meaning of these words, you can get the gist of the custom in no time. Men (usually very young men) soak girls with buckets of water, which recently has become a hard-core version of the old tradition. Those who do not like taking things to extremes are satisfied with wetting their loved ones with small and squeaky plastic eggs or other sorts of sprinklers. In the past taking part in Wet Monday celebrations showed that you found the other person attractive and worthy of teasing. Now, it is mainly the teasing part that has prevailed in society, as boys sometimes like to throw water over complete strangers.
Are you ready then? Forget the Easter Bunny and focus on getting your sausage, eggs and towels ready, but most importantly – enjoy some quality time with your Polish friends and family. Happy Easter!
Photo credit: Palm Sunday taken by Mariusz Cieszewski, Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs