The weather might say otherwise, but Easter is upon us and from Thursday until Monday, Poland will be in festive mood.
The first days of the festival are extremely sombre. Wielki Czwartek (Maundy Thursday) is marked by Bishops in Polish cathedrals washing the feet of elderly men to display humility, as the Bible says that Christ did for his disciples on the same day. Church attendance is not obligatory, but many will go on Thursday evening.
Then it’s Wielki Piątek (Good Friday), the most serious day of all. Catholics should go to church, but there will be no mass. Most commonly, you will find that the visit involves the Stations of the Cross, a symbolic following of Christ’s route to crucifixion. This is a day of fasting, so meat is off the menu – and many will eat fish.
Easter Saturday lightens up a little – but it’s also a day of very hard work, especially for women, who are expected to prepare the feast for Easter Day (Wielkanoc), and the baskets of delicacies for the Easter breakfast, which will then be taken to a church to be blessed. It’s traditional to include at least eggs, kiełbasa, bread, cake, and baranek (a lamb that can be made of sugar, cheese or dough depending on the local tradition). Other items such as butter can be included. On Easter Saturday, some may also attend a mass late in the evening, to mark the resurrection. This is also the day on which many will visit a church to see the Grób Pański – a model of the tomb of Christ, which in some churches can take on satirical or political guises.
Lent’s sombre veil is finally lifted completely on Easter Sunday when, as one might expect, families get together to celebrate and pray.
It all gets a bit pagan after that. Easter Monday is a public holiday, and a religious one too, but it’s also Śmingus Dyngus (also called Lany poniedziałek). Traditionally on this day, young men would douse the maidens of their village with water. There might also be beatings about the legs, with willow branches that display the first buds of spring. The latter has largely died out as a tradition, but these days anyone and everyone is fair game for a drenching. The fact that this year’s Easter Monday also falls on(Prima Aprilis) is almost a guarantee of mischief.
On Sunday and Monday, most shops, museums and services will be closed. Many will have reduced opening hours on Friday and Saturday too.
The one silver lining that this Easter’s snow clouds may bring is that your local Easter market will look just like the Christmas market – and it’s fine to use the greeting ‘Wesołych Świąt’ to express wishes at either holiday.