I promised some of my new friends to write about Easter in Poland. Easter in Poland is celebrated with all family. There is a communal breakfast, but that’s not all! Usually there is a holiday from Friday to Monday (inclusive). But students at schools and sometimes at the universities may have free Thursday too.
As Poland is one of the most catholic countries, the Easter is not only about eating special dishes with a family. Every day there is some mass or ceremony in the church. But I’ll write about it later.
Now I’d like to write about the beginning of Lent, which is a preparation for the most important feast for Christians. The day is called Ash Wednesday. It starts 40 days of Fasting and Abstinence. This year it was 1st of March, 2017. That day people attend the mass and ash is put on everyone’s head to remind them that „for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19).
In Poland priest usually sprinkles the ash from last year’s palms above your head. In Scotland I found out that in my Dundee parish the ash was mixed with oil and the cross on your forehead was put.
I found a nice article on the topic: Why do Catholics put Ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday?
There is one more important day before the Triduum, that starts the Holy Week. It is Palm Sunday. I was curious how is that day celebrated in Scotland. I found out that instead of palm leaves or hand-made palms all the people had leaves (branches?) put together in the shape of the cross.
If you want to read more about this week’s celebrations, that’s the information sheet from St. Patrick’s parish in Dundee (credits: https://spsmblog.wordpress.com/).
How does Palm Sunday look Poland? Usually people come to the church with the colourful palms made of some cereal and grass. They are consecrated. There might be a parade with the palms as well. After consecration they can be put next to the cross or religious paintings at home or sticked into the ground on the field to save crops from drought, hail or excessive rain.
This custom of palm consecration commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, where people threw clothes and palm branches in front of Him as a sign of homage. Palm branches are also widely recognised symbol of peace and victory.
This kind of palms are available in every supermarket before the Palm Sunday. But in some places you can meet palms from box plants (pol. bukszpan) and catkins (pol. bazie) too.
That’s how it looks like in cities. But some villages and towns have special palm-making traditions. There is usually even a competition for the prettiest or the tallest palm.
Polish national record was established in the year 2015. The palm made in the village Lipnica Murowana was 39,40 m tall (43.09 yards). It was made by Zbigniew Urbański, multiple record-holder. The competition is organised since 1958. Here you can find some photos from that competition: http://www.lipniczanin.pl/galeria-zdjec-niedzieli-palmowej-2015-lipnicy-murowanej/
The palms may vary depending on the region of Poland (Wikipedia):
- Palma kurpiowska (North-East from center of Poland). The palm is made of stump (from pine or spruce) wined with heather, box, decorated with flowers made of blotting paper and ribbons. The top is left green. For some examples click here: http://www.mazowieckiszlaktradycji.com/poi-lista/palma-kurpiowska/?Print=1
- Palma góralska (South of Poland). The palm is made of willow, wicker or hazel branches. On the top you can find some catkins. It is decorated with colourful blotting paper flowers and ribbons. The highest one from Lipnica Murowana is from this region.
- Palemka wileńska (Vilnus, Lithuania). The palm here is smaller than the previous ones. It consists of dried flowers, moss and different grass types, that are intricately braided. This type origins from Latvia, but it’s the most common type of palm in Poland nowadays.