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Celebrating Easter Polish style

eastern in PolandEaster egg hunt, marshmallows and hot cross buns? Not in Poland! But Polish people have their own, fascinating customs and traditions that you can discover yourself if you happen to visit Poland at Easter time.

On Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week, Polish churches are crowded with people holding colorful, artificial palms. Naturally, no palms grow at this latitude, which is why Poles have developed their own traditions of making Easter palms. They can be made of willow branches with catkins, boxwood or dried flowers. People carry them to churches, have them blessed and then store them at home, often close to holy pictures. In many places around the country there are Easter palm competitions, where the most beautiful palms are chosen. Some of them are really big, they can be as high as 30 meters! The most famous competition is held in Lipnica Murowana, about an hour’s drive from Kraków. If you visit Kraków on Palm Sunday, don’t miss the chance to make an excursion to Lipnica and see those magnificent palms!

Good Friday is when Poles make pisanki – decorated Easter eggs – and put them in their Easter baskets on Holy Saturday, along with bread, salt and pepper, sausage and ham, an Easter lamb made of sugar, cheese, cake, butter and water. The Easter basket is then carried to church and blessed. Decorating the eggs in Poland is an art. There are many different techniques. The eggs can be painted or dyed and the beautiful patterns can be made using beeswax or carefully scratched with a sharp tool. A common tradition in Łowicz and some parts of Kraków is to decorate the eggs with patterns cut out of paper and glued to the eggshells. Eggs can also be covered in knitted pouches or decorated with glued wool. Pisanki can also be made a few weeks before Easter on wydmuszki, i.e. emptied eggshells. The decorated eggs from the Polish Easter basket is traditionally divided into small pieces on Easter Sunday and eaten by the whole family during Easter breakfast.

Another curious Easter tradition is Śmigus-Dyngus or Wet Monday. Traditionally, boys would soak girls and spank them with pussy willow branches. Nowadays it is more of great fun for youngsters as all the members of the family spill some water on one another and then they can go out and have a real water fight with their peers. If you happen to be visiting one of the big cities in Poland on Easter Monday, such as Warsaw, Kraków or Gdańsk, watch out when you leave your hotel, as people also like to spill water on strangers in the streets and you can have to walk back to your room soaked through!

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