Monday, April 25, 2011

Śmigus-Dyngus!! Really Wet Custom

Today, many Polish people get soaked... Monday after Easter is called "Śmigus-Dyngus" or "Lany Poniedziałek", which means Wet Monday. This holiday has been celebrated in Poland since 15th century. It is definitely fun for children, but also adults like going back to their childhood and get each other wet. It is very popular to pour buckets of water on each other and yes, I mean buckets! Especially boys love to wake up girls by pouring buckets full of water on their heads. There is an old saying, that a girl who gets soaked the most during this day (even few times) will get married first. However, you don't have to be cruel to your loved ones ;) - there is also a nice way to wake up others.... by spraying on them a little bit of perfume or cologne. And if you are in Poland during this holiday, be aware that someone may run to you and get you wet! If you think that you are safe sitting in your car, make sure to close all the windows, because your car can receive a special "wash" on this day...

Pisanki, kraszanki, malowanki - decorating Polish Easter eggs

In many regions of Poland decorating Easter eggs became an art.
The most common name for an Easter egg in Poland is "Pisanka" ("Pisanki" in plural).
This name comes from a verb "pisać" which means "to write". "Pisanki" are created by coating eggs with a wax design followed by dyeing. Although, it is very common to use the name "Pisanki", there are various names describing Easter eggs, which are corresponding with a method being used to decorate them.
At my parents' home we would use natural materials, such as onion peels, to color our eggs into brown or dark red color. Eggs colored this way are called "kraszanki" (from a verb "krasić" - "to dye", "to decorate"). Once this step was completed, we would scratch on them different designs using a needle. Eggs decorated this way are called "drapanki" or "skrobanki" (from verbs "drapać" and  "skrobać" - "to scratch").
The other types of Easter eggs include also "malowanki" 
(v. "malować" - "to paint"and "wyklejanki" (v. "wyklejać" - "to stick on"). 

As I was writing this blog post, I realized that it might serve a purpose of learning some Polish vocabulary and I hope, it did. :-)

Here is a YouTube video which explains really well various techniques of decorating eggs in different regions of  Poland. Happy watching!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Poland

Easter and Christmas are the most important holidays in Poland. There are many traditions which represent both holidays. Polish people (Polacy) enjoy family gatherings accompanied by different types of meals. They also stay true to the traditions known since childhood, passed from generation to generation.
Happy Easter in Polish
Own source
Easter Sunday (Wielkanoc, Niedziela Wielkanocna) is a celebration of Resurrection of Jesus. After a forty-day period of fasting called Lent, Easter Sunday is a colorful and joyful family day.
Own source
A week prior to Easter Sunday, Catholics go to church with beautiful palms, that represent palm branches waved by the crowds when Jesus entered Jerusalem. This Sunday is called Palm Sunday - Niedziela Palmowa.  Most of the palms are made of willow, raspberry and currant branches mixed with box/yew. Palms are decorated with colorful ribbons, fresh flowers or even tissue paper flowers. Tradition of preparing beautiful palms lasted in many regions of Poland; in fact there are places which host annual contest for the tallest and the most beautiful palm. Those palms are really impressive and can reach up to over 30 meters height (around 100 feet). 
One of the customs is to gently hit each other with blessed palms after leaving the church. It is supposed to bring health and good luck. 
Palms are burnt at the church on Holy Saturday. The ashes from burnt palms are being used during Ash Wednesday the following year.
Polish Palm
Source:,  Author: Aneta S.
On Holy Saturday people go to the church to bless Easter baskets called święconka. Baskets consist of food items, which will be consumed the very next day during Easter breakfast. They are beautifully decorated with box branches, ribbons and little, yellow chicks. Typical Easter basket consists of dyed, hard boiled eggs called kraszanki, a small piece of sausage, a slice of bread, a slice of cake, salt, pepper, and sugar or chocolate lamb – a symbol of Resurrection. Day after that, Easter basket is placed on the breakfast table, and breakfast begins from sharing blessed eggs from święconka between family members. They are cut into small wedges, so that every family member gets a piece, and then exchanges Easter wishes.
Easter Sunday starts for many Catholics by attending very early morning Resurrection Mass followed by a procession. Morning Service usually starts at 6 a.m., so the breakfast takes place pretty early, around 9 a.m. Typical Polish Easter breakfast consists of, but is not limited to:
- white borscht (barszcz) - sour wheat soup 
or "Zurek" - sour rye soup (both served with hard boiled egg and white sausage)
- devilled eggs, usually with mayonnaise
- ham and other deli meats
- roasted meats
- Pasztet (meat spread)
- horseradish
- salads
- breads
- desserts such as: 
Mazurek” (very popular Easter cake, usually rectangular in shape and very sweet),
Babka” (usually round or loaf shaped pound cake or yeast cake), 
and variety of other cakes. 
All to satisfy a sweet tooth of anyone who has been fasting during Lent and gave up sweets.
Devilled Eggs
And some ham and fresh veggies
Trying to continue Polish breakfast tradition in USA