Easter is one of the most important holidays in the Polish calendar and for some of the more religious Poles, it is more significant and meaningful than Christmas. There are a lot of fun Easter traditions that develop over centuries and quite a few serious customs that may be surprising for a foreigner or an expat. As you may know, the entire week before Easter is called Holy Week, and during that time most of the celebrations are taking place.
Exactly 7 days before the main celebrations take place, people gather for a procession with palms in their hands. I know what you are thinking – Where the hell do Polish people take the palms from? It’s too cold for them to grow there! Well, you’re absolutely right about that. In Poland, all we can get are ‘artificial palms’. They’re usually made from branches of native trees, including box, willow, yew and olive trees.
Some of the Polish villages and small towns organise palm competitions with the most famous one taking place in Lipnica Murowana (fun fact: the highest palm so far was over 32 meters high and was created in 2013).
Blessing of the Easter baskets
This is probably one of the most beloved Polish traditions that take place on Holy Saturday. It is celebrated not only in Poland but also within Polish communities all around the world. The name of this custom might sound mysterious but it’s nothing more than a blessing given by the priest over the food that will be eaten during the Easter feast. Of course, you won’t see people bringing all of the traditional dishes right to the front of the church (it would be funny though) instead, a small amount of the most important food like eggs, bread, meat and butter are put inside the basket. It’s a very important tradition in Polish culture so you can often spot entire families participating in it.
Holy Sunday morning is all about the food and enjoying family time. The traditional family breakfast is served, including the blessed food and many other delicious specialities. It’s also time when everyone wishes each other all the best. Some people may say that Easter is all about tradition, celebration, meeting with family but deep down they know that it’s also mainly (or all) about food. After the breakfast is finished, people take a walk and enjoy the rest of the day (unless somebody ate too much and he or she cannot move for a while…).
In Poland, eggs are an important part of the Easter tradition. Children decorate them with paints, crayons, stickers, tissue-paper and anything they can find and seems suitable. The decorated eggs are put on the Easter table as a decoration and very often are also used for entertainment. The simple game includes two participants that pick one egg each and hit them against each other. The person whose egg didn’t crack wins.
In contrast to Christmas Easter in Poland isn’t really about gifts, however, small presents are given to children. Children believe that a giant Easter Bunny goes from house to house and hides sweets somewhere in the room the night before Holy Sunday. Who knows, maybe it’s true?
If you’re a girl you’d better read this paragraph carefully! During Wet Monday you can expect to get soaked, at any time and any place. Boys in small groups hunt for girls and use their water guns or even buckets full of water to fulfil their Easter duty. So don’t be surprised when you see a small boy running around with a big bucket of water ready to pour it out on a random girl he sees. What are the most dangerous places during that day? Churches, parks, small streets, squares…well to be honest, you can’t feel 100% safe anywhere, even inside your own house. The best tip you can get is to not leave home alone unless you carry a huge water gun with you so you can fight back!
There are probably a few other regional Easter traditions and customs, however, you should know now enough to get by and be able to enjoy Easter in Poland. Focus on food and just go with the flow.