Easter holidays have a rich tradition – they are associated with numerous religious and folk rites that intertwine and function together for hundreds of years.
Easter is a Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead which is described in the New Testament. It also is an important holiday for Polish. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by a 40-day Lent of fasting, penance and prayer.
It is an extremely joyful and colourful time, inseparable from the rebirth of the forces of nature and the flowering of nature. After Lent – once very strictly followed – people were eagerly awaiting the variety. Many Easter customs included activities supporting the development of nature and securing vegetation. We also remember some of them today.
Holy Week began with Palm Sunday. As tradition dictates on Palm Sunday, a palm tree is taken to the church for sacrifice. To this day, in some parts of the region, it is practised to make palm trees, with at least seven twigs of different trees, shrubs and herbs.
On Holy Wednesday, Christians remember that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, a clandestine spy among the disciples. In Silesian Voivodeships this day was called the żurowom strzodom (sour rye soup’s Wednesday). On that day, people burn żur, so large bonfires of straw, dry leaves, branches and other impurities collected from fields were ignited.
On Maundy Thursday, the bells in the church were silent. The most popular Maundy Thursday custom in Poland was walking with clacks (called klekotki), staves, and rattlesnakes.
Good Friday is a day of great remembrance, commemorating the death of Christ on the cross. According to tradition, on this day at dawn or in the evening on Maundy Thursday you should go to the pond, the lake, and preferably to the river, to wash there in cold water, which provided spring cleansing and reinforcement.
On Holy Saturday, the morning mass was devoted to hallow the świynconka or koszyczyek – dishes in a decorated basket, which had to include: egg, butter, bread, sausage, ham or smoked meat, salt and horseradish.
Easter Sunday was solemn, and it was mostly spent at home with the family. In the early morning, everyone went to the resuscitation. While back, the family sat down for festive meals – breakfast and dinner, observing the principle that you can only eat dedicated dishes.
The second day of the holidays is also called a Wet Monday or śmingus-dyngus – boys walk around the houses and pour water on girls and women. It was believed that any well-watered woman would be “healthy like a fish.” The boys and men receive gifts from girls, most often in the form of coloured eggs. Easter Monday is also the day when children look for a bunny nest with gifts.