Polish Customs, Traditions, & Folklore
Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, the author of this book (and several others) has made a significant contribution to our collective appreciation of Polish customs and traditions.
I regularly check this book to learn what my ancestors did throughout the year long ago. For example, we celebrate Groundhog Day in North America, but what about in Poland?:
Whereas Americans use animals to predict the weather for the following six weeks until the official spring in March, the Poles of the Tarnów-Rzeszow region used the bear. If on the day of Matka Boska Gromniczna, the bear came out of his winter lair and found frost, he would knock down and pull apart his hiding place because he would expect that winter would end shortly. However, if the day was a damp one, he came out and spent time mending it because winter would hang on for quite some time yet.
- p. 68
At midnight on Holy Saturday, water was believed to have miraculous powers. At first light people flocked to rivers and streams to bathe, for doing so would help mend slow healing wounds as well as prevent skin disorders. It brought health and strength to the eyes. Young women went to bathe in the water in order to assure a beautiful complexion as well as happiness and good luck. The hands and face were not wiped dry but allowed to dry naturally. To complete this ritual successfully a young maiden was reminded not to talk to anyone or look around her while en route to the stream or river. If a cat or rabbit crossed her path, she had to return home or some misfortune would occur. If she met a bachelor, he would surely become her husband. If a member of the family was sick and unable to make the trek to the water, it was possible to bring it to the house, but after the washing, it was necessary to return the water from where it was obtained.
Source: “Polish Customs, Traditions & Folklore” by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, p.103
Czarnina is duck blood soup. Among the ingredients used are plum or pear syrup, dried pears, plums or cherries, apple vinegar and honey. Like most Polish soups, czarnina is usually served with kluski, fine noodles, macaroni, boiled potatoes, or dumplings.
Until the 19th century czarnina had a symbolic function in Polish culture and this is what I want you to take note of. Czarnina was served to young men applying for the hand of their beloved.
Sophie Hodorowicz Knab writes: "If, after much deliberation, the answer to his suit was negative, a suitor could be offered... dark soup, czarnina, or duck blood's soup. In Ostrołęka, in the Kurpie region of Poland, when a young man returned with his intermediary on Thursday, the family immediately sat them down to dinner. If they offered czarnina or, as it's called in this area, szary barszcz, it was eaten and the suitor and his intermediary quietly left without further discussion. If something else to eat was offered, then the intermediary knew that he could begin talking about the dowry and the wedding plans."
- Source: Polish Customs,Traditions & Folklore by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab; pp.184-185