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    Easter traditions related to forest life

    Easter was traditionally a time of family rest and giving up work. What did it look like in the case of foresters and forest workers in the old days?

    Easter traditions vary from region to region in Poland. We looked at how this holiday was celebrated years ago, not only in family terms. Similar to Christmas, meetings of the Forester Family were organized to celebrate the holiday. From excerpts from the forest press of the interwar period, we learn, among other things, about meetings during which bigos and peas with cabbage prepared on an open fire were eaten. Proximity to nature was very important during the holiday that heralds its rebirth.

    On Ash Wednesday, branches of willow, raspberry or currant trees were then plucked and placed in water to bloom for Palm Sunday. In some regions, in the evening, maidens danced, while young married women and men, if they wanted to join in, had to “buy in” with alcohol and snacks.

    Twigs picked in advance were formed into bouquets, decorated with ribbons, which were blessed on Palm Sunday in church. The resulting “palm” was said to acquire miraculous properties. Gently set on fire, it was used to oxidize a cow after calving and all cattle on Good Friday. The palm, in turn, placed in the window, was supposed to be a protection against lightning strikes. Unfortunately, as in modern times, the desire to obtain green plants for holiday decorations often ended in the devastation of undergrowth, mainly through the illegal harvesting of blueberries.

    On Good Friday, the tomb of Christ appeared in churches. Firefighters, police officers, and foresters usually served as guards at the tomb. Twigs were then sacred and were supposed to protect against fire. Forests are also associated with practices during the Days of the Cross. Then fields and forests are sacred, while the faithful visit chapels and roadside statues. The celebration of Easter itself was similar to today. The most important were the resurrection and the ceremonial breakfast, while on the second day water was poured over each other, which on Easter is supposed to have a special power: it protected maidens from old age and cleansed animals from disease. It should be remembered that Easter, like Christmas, was traditionally a time off from hunting.

    We can read about the customs of the foresters themselves in their memoirs and diaries. They were usually the same as the traditions of the regions from which the forestry workers came. Foresters were a socially mobile group – after graduation, they were assigned to particular forest districts – and in the interwar period they were certainly a group that was a transmission belt of culture and traditions between different regions.

    Definitely more is known about the customs of forestry workers. Ethnographers in the twentieth century described old rural customs in an effort to preserve them from oblivion. Thanks to their efforts, it is possible to learn a lot about the life and celebration of Easter by the rural population.

    As an example, we can mention the Lasowiak community, in whose commemoration the State Forests are involved. This is an ethnographic group living mainly in the Tarnobrzeg Plain and Kolbuszowa Plateau. Traces of the forest past remain in the names: Rudna Wielka, and Dymar.

    State Forests / press material

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