"Święconka" meaning "the blessing of the Easter baskets," is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions on Holy Saturday. Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, and boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the creativity of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event.
Ray Vargas begins a lesson on how to make beautiful Easter eggs in the traditional Polish way. After viewing the videos, go HERE for detailed instructions. The Polish American Journal also has excellent instructions HERE.
Part 1: The design phase
Part 2: Color dyes
Part 3: Ray Vargas demonstrates how to apply the beeswax to the eggs with a pisac, a funnel writing tool.
The custom of drowning Marzanna (also known as Marzaniok, Morenam, Mór, Śmiertka, Śmiercicha), the symbol of winter, was most popular among youngsters in certain regions of Poland. Children would make a straw effigy dressed and throw it into a nearby river and rejoice in winter's departure and the advent of warmer weather. "Marzanna" was the name of the ancient pagan goddess of Death.
CLICK HERE for a list of items to be included in the traditional Polish Easter basket
CLICK HERE for a list of items to be included in the traditional Polish Easter basket for the Easter Blessing (Święcenie pokarmów)
The tradition of preparing a special Easter basket to be blessed by a local priest has been practiced by Poles throughout the ages. It is reported that as many as 95% of all Polish families continue the custom today. The custom is also maintained throughout Polonia and has even been embraced by those not of Polish descent.
It should be noted that the Easter basket is first lined with a linen or a lace napkin which extends beyond the 'basket's rim and covers the food placed inside as the basket is carried to and from church. The food is later uncovered for the blessing. Here is a list of items that are traditionally included in the Polish Easter basket and are an integral part of the Polish Easter blessing:
Eggs, colored or plain (jaja, pisanki): Hard-boiled eggs symbolize new life, a basic theme of the Easter celebration.
Bread (chleb): The "staff of life". In some cases, special loaves marked on top with a cross are baked for the occasion. The importance of bread as a symbol of life cannot be stressed enough.
Meat and sausage (mięso, wędliny): kielbasa, a slice of ham or roast meat are usually included. Meat symbolizes the resurrection, Christ's victory over death.
Horseradish (chrzan): Horseradish represents one of the bitter herbs which foretold the Crucifixion. It is also an acknowledgement that in life one must accept the bitter with the sweet.
Vinegar (ocet): A small container of vinegar stands for the bitter wine that Jesus was given while hanging on the cross.
Salt (sól): Salt is an important food preservative that has always been essential for survival through Poland's long winters. Like bread, its importance cannot be overstated.
Pepper (pieprz): Like horseradish, it is one of the bitter herbs of Passover.
Easter cakes (babka, mazurek, placek, chalka, sernic): The forty-day period of self-denial is over, and it is once again time to enjoy life's sweetness!
Wine (wino): A small quantity of wine is sometimes included. Wine represents Christ's blood shed on the cross.
Easter Lamb (baranek wielkanocny): Usually made of butter (but is can be made of almost anything) is added last where it prominently guards over the other precious items in the basket. The lamb, representing the sacrificial Pascal lamb, usually wields a red banner with a gold cross proclaiming victory of life over death.
Box twigs (bukszpan): This is an evergreens shrub with tiny green leaves used for decorative purposes. Sprigs of pussy willows are also very popular.
The Dyngus Day tradition of switching or tapping girls with pussywillow branches and sprinkling them with water, although strongly associated with the Catholic religion today, originated before the conversion of Polish tribes to Christianity in the 10th century. In order for the tribal people living on the Polish territory to accept the new religion, the Church decided to combine the pagan customs with the culture of Catholicism. Splashing water on girls was one of these customs. Find out more about Dyngus Day here.
Before the availability of commercial dyes, plants were mainly used for coloring. For example, moss from the underside of a stone was used to produce a delicate light green color,orange was made from an infusion of crocuses, and black was brewed from alder bark or cones.
A gift of an Easter egg from a girl to a young man traditionally was a sign that his attentions would not be unwelcome.
Wicie palmy kurpiowskiej: Pod kierunkiem twórczyni ludowej dzieci uczą się wić palmę wielkanocną kurpiowską na warsztatach w Mazowieckim Centrum Kultury Ludowej.
Łyse - Niedziela Palmowa: Łyse jest miejscowością położoną na Kurpiach. Corocznie, w Niedzielę Palmową ściągają tysiącewiernych nie tylko z kraju. Region ten jest niezwykle bogaty kulturowo - charakterystyczna gwara, pieśni, tańce a także obrzędy świeckie i religijne. W żadnym innym regionie
Palm Sunday in Poland
Polski nie ma tak oryginalnych palm. Każda z nich to dzieło sztuki ludowej. Tradycyjne wzory są dziedziczone z pokolenia na pokolenie. Nie tylko ich krasa zachwyca, także rozmiary - niektóre z nich mają 6-8 m wysokości.
"Panie Jezu Chryste, Ty w dzien przed meka i smiercia kazales uczniom przygotowac paschalna wieczerze, w dzien Zmartwychwstania przyjales zaproszenie dwoch uczniow i zasiadles z nimi do stolu, a poznym wieczorem przyszedles do apostolow, aby spozyc wraz z nimi posilek; prosimy Cie, daj nam z wiara przezywac Twoja obecnosc miedzy nami podczas swiatecznego posilku, w dzien Twojego zwyciestwa, abysmy mogli sie radowac z udzialu w Twoim zyciu i zmartwychwstaniu.
Chlebie zywy, ktory zstapiles z nieba i w Komunii swietej dajesz zycie swiatu, poblogoslaw ten chleb i wszelkie swiateczne pieczywo na pamiatke chleba, ktorym nakarmiles lud sluchajacy Ciebie wytrwale na pustkowiu, i ktory po swym zmartwychwstaniu przygotowales nad jeziorem dla swoich uczniow.
Baranku Bozy, ktory zwyciezyles zlo i obmyles swiat z grzechow, poblogoslaw to mieso, wedliny i wszelkie pokarmy, ktore bedziemy jedli na pamiatke Baranka paschalnego i swiatecznych potraw, ktore Ty spozyles z Apostolami na Ostatniej Wieczerzy. Poblogoslaw takze nasza sol, aby chronila nas od zepsucia.
Chryste, zycie i Zmartwychwstanie nasze, poblogoslaw te jajka, znak nowego zycia, abysmy dzielac sie nimi w gronie rodziny i gosci, mogli sie takze dzielic wzajemnie radoscia z tego, ze jestes z nami. Daj nam wszystkim dojsc do wiecznej uczty Twojej, tam, gdzie Ty zyjesz i krolujesz na wieki wiekow. Amen."
19th Century Święconka
This is the prayer recited by the priest to bless Easter baskets:
Dziady śmiguśne or słomiaki: This video shows how the day after Easter is celebrated the southern Małopolska region of Poland especially in the area of Limanowa. Young men parade through the village wearing high hats and outfits made of straw. In Mielec these "silent beggars" squirt water with wishes for a good harvest. Of course it's the ladies who get all the attention from the men. Great fun! (I read about this in the Polish American Journal.)
Siuda Baba is another Polish custom with pagan roots. According to legend, there was once a temple in Lednica near Wieliczka where a priestess had the responsibility of guarding a fire throughout the year, and the spring would emerge to search for a successor.
Siuda Baba i Zespół Mietniowiacy
Wielkanocny zwyczaj Siudej Baby w Wieliczce - 2010, w trakcie którego wystąpił Zespół Folklorystyczny "Mietniowiacy
In the video on the right, the part of the priestess is played by a man with a soot-covered face. Holding a cross, he is dressed in rags and wears a necklace made of chestnuts. The Siuda Baba pageant
is held on Easter Monday and includes musicians playing lively melodies. By donating a few coins, it is said you will have prosperity for the entire year.
These "beggars" are silent, or only speak in murmurs or by tooting horns, because legend has it that their tongues were cut off by and faces mutilated by the Tatars. They survived and went begging for help from the local inhabitants. The custom is a commemoration of that unfortunate event.
Dziady śmigustne (znane mogą być również jako: Śmiguśnioki, Śmigurty, Śmigurciarze, Gwiżdże, Ukacace lub Słomiacy) – zwyczaj ludowy związany ze Świętem Wielkanocy. Znany jest on w Małopolsce i na Wielkopolsce, popularyzowany we wsi Dobra.
W nocy z Niedzieli na Poniedziałek Wielkanocny pojawiają się owinięte w słomę maszkary, zwane dziadami śmigustnymi. Twarze ukryte mają za futrzanymi maskami, osmolonymi pończochami, z wycięciami na oczy i nos. Nie odzywają się, wydają tylko pomruki, trąbią na blaszanym rożku. Gestykulując, proszą o datki, polewają wodą.
Z tradycją tą związana jest legenda, która opowiada o tym, jak przed wiekami do wioski przybyli jeńcy z niewoli tatarskiej. Tatarzy obcięli im języki, zmasakrowali twarze. Odziani w łachmany, otuleni słomą, szukali pomocy. Mieszkańcy przyjęli ich, a na pamiątkę tego wydarzenia wieś nazywa się Dobra.
Polish pisanka (plural pisanki) or jaja wielkanocne - Easter eggs); piski, kraszonki is a common name for an egg (usually that of a chicken, although goose or duck eggs are also used) richly ornamented using various techniques. The word pisanka is derived from the verb 'pisać' which in contemporary Polish means exclusively 'to write' yet in old Polish meant also 'to paint'. Originating as a pagan tradition, pisanki were absorbed by Christianity to become the traditional Easter egg. Pisanki are now considered to symbolise the revival of nature and the hope that Christians gain from faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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
Several steps are involved decorating the Batikowne eggs.