Polish Easter Dictionary
by Robert Strybel
Popielec, Sroda Popielocowa. Ash Wednesday traditionally ends the period of
pre-Lenten merriment known as Karnawal or Zapusty and ushers in 40 days of fast
and penance in preparation for Easter. Priests sprinkle the heads of the
faithful with ashes while saying, Pamietaj, czlowiecze, ze z prochu powstales i
w proch sie obrocisz. (Remember, man, thou art dust and to dust thou shall
Wielki Post. Literally "the Great Fast," Lent is a time of special services,
retreats, fasting and individual acts of penance. Liquor and raucous
entertainment are avoided, and very few weddings take place.
Gorzkie Zale. Ancient chants retracing the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ
form the essence of this typically Polish weekly Lenten service that takes its
name from the words of the hymn, "Gorzkie zale przybywajcia" (Come to us, bitter
Dzien Swietego Jozefa. Although few Polish babies nowadays are named Jozef, in
the past this was a very popular name. To allow the many Josephs to celebrate
their namesday, the Church would grant a dispensation from the rigors of Lent on
Topienie Marzanny. The custom of drowning Marzanna, the symbol of winter, was
most popular among youngsters in the Opole region of Slask (Silesia). They would
carry a straw effigy dressed in rags on a pole through the village and dump it
into the nearest river or lake amid songs and laughter.
Wielki Tydzien. The culmination of Lent is Holy Week, appropriately known in
Polish as "the Great Week." The most important are the first day, Palm Sunday,
and the last three, known by the Latin term, "Triduum." The remaining days are
largely set aside for the physical preparation for Easter. shopping, baking and
Niedziela Palmowa. In the past, Palm Sunday was called Niedziela Kwietna (floral
Sunday), because bouquets of wildflowers, pussy willows and evergreens were
blessed in churches, rather than real, subtropical palms, which were not
Bazie, Kotki. Pussy willow branches are cut several weeks ahead and placed in
water so they sprout their furry, little buds by Palm Sunday. According to one
old folk custom, swallowing one of the buds was said to ensure health all year.
Girls also could expect to have their legs thrashed by boys with pussy willow
Topienie Judasza. On Holy Wednesday, youngsters enjoyed hurling an effigy of
Judas from the church steeple. It was then dragged through the village, pounded
with sticks and stones and what was left of it was drowned in a nearby pond or
Kalwaria. Calvary is the name of several Polish localities that serve as retreat
and pilgrimage centers especially during Holy Week. The best known Kalwaria
Zebrzydowska near Pope John Paul II's birthplace of Wadowice.
Wielki Czwartek. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Christ
instituted the priesthood. In cathedrals, bishops wash the feet of 12 elderly
men just as Christ did his apostles before the supper.
Wielki Piatek. Good Friday, the most somber day of the year, is a day of solemn
church services centering on the Death of Christ. The sorrowful mood is enhanced
by such plaintive hymns as "Ludu, moj ludu" and "W Krzyzdu cierpienie." The
violet draping is removed from the Crucifix, which is displayed for public
veneration, and a tableau of Christ's Tomb is unveiled.
Grob Panski, Bozy Grob. A lifesize figure of Christ lying in His tomb is widely
visited by the faithful, especially on Holy Saturday. The tableaux may include
flowers, candles, figures of angels standing watch, the three crosses atop Mt.
Calvary and much more. Each parish strives to come up with the most artistically
and religiously evocative arrangement in which the Blessed Sacrament, draped in
a filmy veil, is prominently displayed.
Swiecone. 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.
Pisanki. Although this term has come to mean Easter eggs in general, strictly
speaking it refers only to those eggs decorated with the molten-wax technique.
Various regions have developed designs of their own, which include floral and
geometric patterns, typical Easter motifs (the Lamb, Cross, pussy willow), the
greeting, " Wesolego Alleluja," or simply "Alleluja" and the current year.
Baranek Wielkanocny. The Easter Lamb bearing a cross-emblazoned flag represents
Christ Resurrected and is thus the typical Polish Easter symbol. The lamb adorns
greeting cards, sugar lambs are blessed in Easter baskets and plaster lambs form
the centerpiece of the swieconka table.
Rezurekcja. The joyous Easter morning Mass at daybreak when church bells ring
out and explosions resound to commemorate the bright flash and thunderous rumble
heard when Christ rose from the dead. Before the Mass begins, a festive
procession with the Blessed Sacrament carried beneath a canopy thrice encircles
the church. Janging handbells are vigorously shaken by altarboys, the air is
filled with incense and the faithful raise their voices heavenward in a
triumphant rendering of age-old Easter hymns.
Swiecone. After Easter Mass, the faithful hurry home to feast on the delicacies
they saw little of during Lent. Cold dishes predominate like ham, kielbasa,
roast meats, pasztat (pate), hard-boiled eggs in various sauces, salads, beet
and horseradish relish (cwikla), followed by such holiday cakes as babka,
mazurek and sernik. In some families the breakfast starts with a tart, whitish
soup containing eggs and kielbasa, known as bialy barszcz in eastern Poland and
Dzielenie Sie Jajkiem. Before Easter breakfast begins, members of the family
consume wedges of blessed Easter eggs and exchange best wishes in much the same
way as oplatek is shared on Christmas Eve.
Lany Poniedzialek. Wet Easter Monday was traditionally the day boys tried to
drench girls with squirt guns, buckets of water, and much more. The girls got
their chances for revenge the following day. Now things have become a
free-for-all with young people drenching anyone in sight.
Smigus Dyngus. This term is now generally applied to the Easter Monday drenching
custom, although originally each part of the term meant something else. Dyngus
one signified a kind of house-to-house Easter trick or treating that has
survived only in a few rural areas. The merrymakers often pulled along a special
cart with a live or wooden rooster and received treats and drinks from the
householders they visited.
Emmaus. An outdoor fair held in Krakow for centuries at Easter time. It still
features stands selling toys, trinkets and food and is visited by countless
Krakovians eager to get a little exercise after long bouts of feasting round the
Gaik. Literally "little grove," this is the name of a small evergreen decorated
with ribbons, flowers, possibly suspended Easter eggs that is carried house to
house by singing, trick-or-treating youngsters who are given eggs and other
treats by householders. The custom is now largely confined to rural areas of
Opole in southwest Poland.
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Swiecone for Beginners
PACKAGE MIX EASTER SOUP (zur lub bialy barszcz blyskawiczny): Prepare instant
zur or bialy barszcz (for instance: Winiary or Knorr brand — available at Polish
delis) according to directions on package. Serve over sliced hard-cooked eggs.
EGGS IN MAYONNAISE (jaja na twardo w majonezie): Top hard-cooked egg halves on
lettuce-lined platter with a dollop of store-bought mayonnaise. Garnish each
dollop with some finely chopped chives and/or dill.
COLD SMOKED-MEAT PLATTER (pólmisek wedlin): Artistically arrange thin slices of
imported Polish canned ham (and/or other boiled or baked ham), Polish canned
pork loin, Polish canned Canadian bacon, krakowska (sausage), etc. Trim edge of
platter with thin rounds of cooked fresh kielbasa, smoked kielbasa or hunter's
sausage. Decorate platter with sprigs of parsley, radish roses, pickled
mushrooms, gherkins and or bell-pepper rings or strips.
EASY EASTER SALAD (latwa salatka wielkanocna): In salad bowl combine 2 c diced
cooked potatoes, 1 c drained canned navy beans, 1 c drained canned peas &
carrots, 2 peeled, cored, diced apples, 3 diced dill pickles, 2 diced onions.
Sprinkle with lemon juice, salt & pepper and laced with just enough mayonnaise
to coat ingredients. Chill and let stand covered over night before serving.
PAN-FRIED KIELBASA (kielbasa podsmasana): Cut fresh kielbasa, cooked the day
before and refrigerated over night, into 3" or 4" servings. Place in lightly
buttered or oiled skillet and brown on all sides until heated through. Serve hot
with cwikla (below).
EASY BEETS & HORSERADISH RELISH (cwikla najlatwejsza): Combine 2 c coarsely
grated canned, drained pickled beets with 2-3 T prepared horseradish and 1 c
apple sauce. Season with salt, pepper, ground caraway, sugar and vinegar to
taste. Cover and chill overnight.
WAFER-TYPE PLUM MAZUREK (mazurek cliwkowy na oplatku): Thinly spread an
oplatek-type wafer (normally used for ritual sharing on Christmas Eve) with
powidla (Polish plum butter). Cover with another oplatek. Spread it with powidla
as well and cover with a third oplatek. Press down gently so oplatek doesn't
crack. Cover with clean dish towel and weight down with a heavy book over night.
Before serving, spread top and sides with canned vanilla or chocolate icing. Cut
into squares and serve.
OTHER FOODS: If you live near a Polish neighborhood, stock up on the deli items,
baked goods and other Polish-style Easter treats you lack the time, energy and
know-how to prepare at home.
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Easter Basket Foods
As Rev. Czeslaw Krysa was growing up in Niagara Falls, he learned about Polish
Easter traditions as a member of Holy Trinity Parish. An accomplished author and
historian, he explains the meaning of each food found on the swienconka table in
his 18-page booklet, "Swienconka and Dyngus Day Traditions," which was published
in 1986 by OCO Press in Lewiston.
Rev. Krysa is a professor of liturgy at St. Cyril Methodius Seminary in Orchard
Lake, Michigan., near Detroit. His research has uncovered the origin of
Swienconka, or the blessing of the Easter food basket.
The blessed foods and their symbolic meanings are.
Egg (pisanka). Symbol of life and rebirth.
Sausage (kielbasa), ham and/or smoked bacon. All types of pork were forbidden
under the dietary code of the Old Testament (Leviticus 11.7). The coming of
Christ was seen as exceeding the old law and the dietary items now became
acceptable (Mark 7.19).
Paschal lamb. It can be made of butter, cake or even plaster. It is the
centerpiece of the meal. Christ is seen as the "Lamb of God."
Horseradish/pepper. Symbolize the bitter herbs of the Passover and the Exodus.
Salt. Joins bread in Polish tradition as a sign of hospitality.
Bread. Christ has been called "the Bread of Life."
Vinegar. Symbolizes the gall given to Christ at the crucifixion.
Wine. Symbolizes the blood of sacrifice split by Christ at the crucifixion.
Traditions vary from family to family and have changed with each passing
generation. Some allow children to place chocolate into the basket. A colorful
ribbon and sometimes sprigs of greenery are attached, the linen cover is drawn
over the top and it is ready to be taken to church or for the priests visit. The
priest may also bless these items found in the Easter basket:
Cheese. Shaped into a ball, it is a symbol of moderation Christians should have
at all times.
Holy Water. Holy water was used to bless the home, animals, fields and used in
religious rituals throughout the year.
Candle. This is changed yearly in the home on "the night before Easter" to
signify the power of light over darkness.
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How to "Write" an Easter Egg
Pisanki Comes from the Polish Word "Pisac," "To Write"
From "Polish American Way Recipes and Traditions" by Jacek Nowakowski.
Polish American Journal, March 1997
SUPPLIES. Medium, raw eggs at room temperature, vinegar, a small cake of
beeswax, a candle (taper) in a low stand, a pisak or stylus, aniline dyes
(yellow, orange, green, red, violet, brown, black) prepared in water and
vinegar, a spoon, paper towels, tissues, one large and one small safety pin, a
stiff wire (about 6 inches long), a small bowl, clear, glossy varnish, waxed
STEP BY STEP
1. Having wiped the egg with a paper towel moistened in some vinegar, heat the
metal ends of the stylus over the candle flame. The hot stylus is touched to the
beeswax to form a puddle of molten wax which enters the stylus and becomes the
"ink" in this batik process.
2. Write with the molten wax on the egg. Always write away from yourself,
turning the egg when necessary. Wherever molten wax appears on the egg, the dye
will not color it. Hence a batik process. The egg is divided into eight
sections. From each intersecting point, write a small curled cane, always
working away from yourself.
3. Place in the yellow dye bath.
4. Remove from the yellow dye bath after about 10 minutes, pat dry with a paper
towel. Allow the egg to set for 5 minutes.
5. Write the rungs of the ladders on the yellow egg. After completing the rungs,
place the egg in the orange dye, remove and write the "teeth" on each final
rung. Place into purple dye for about 10 minutes. Remove and let set until dry.
6. Hold the egg with the waxed portion next to the candle flame (not over or in
the flame to avoid scorching). When the wax melts, turning shiny, quickly yet
gently wipe off the molten wax with a facial tissue in one stroke. Repeat until
entire egg is cleaned.
7. To preserve the egg and deepen the colors, varnish with index finger (two
coats), leaving to dry on waxed paper.
8. Let stand overnight. Make a hole with a small safety pin at one end large
enough to insert a thin, rigid wire. Break the yoke with the wire and scramble
the contents. Make a small hole in the opposite end.
9. Gently, yet firmly, clasp the egg and blow into the smaller hole; the
scrambled contents will slowly be forced out through the larger hole. Your egg
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The Origins of Dyngus
by Ks. Czeslaw M. Krysa
"Three cheers for Notre Dame!" I found myself teaching a summer session at the
"University of the Fighting Irish."
During a class break, a cherished moment in a muggy mid-Western summer, one of
the students said, "You're Polish, aren't you?"
"Why, yes," I responded.
"Do you know they are sponsoring some kind of Polish Easter celebration at the
faculty club—music, food and all?" the student continued. "They call it ...
something beginning with a `D' ... Din ... Ding ..."
"Dyngus Day!" I responded "but in July?"
After the initial surprise, a group of us made reservations with much curiosity
and some suspicion. Dyngus Day at Notre Dame? In July? What a combination!
That day, the "Fighting Irish" became Poles at heart. The food was somewhat
traditional, although I had to request horseradish. A local band came in from
South Bend and played until around midnight.
At that Midwest Dyngus, I was told that South Bend celebrates the day after
Easter annually. South Bend dubbed itself the "Dyngus Day Capital of the World."
Hailing from Buffalo, I told them not to be so sure of that status. Buffalo
surely gives South Bend some stiff competition for the honor.
DYNGUS. WHAT DOES THE WORD MEAN? Each year, various definitions, interpretations
and guesses appear: anything from switching with branches to the infamous "Sadie
I did some research on the etymology of the word. According to the Encyclopedia
Staropolska, by A. Gloger (circa the 19th century), the word can be traced back
to a medieval form of the word "Dingnus," which means "worthy, proper, or
suitable." Gloger cites a use of the word, namely "ransom during a war to
protect against pillage," as well as a German usage of "Dingen," which means "to
come to an agreement, evaluate or buy back."
The Deutsches Worterbuch traces the meaning of the word as it appears in German
from the 16th century to the present as ranging from "hope" to "bringing a case
before court" to "coming to the service of another" to "applying for a job" or
"bicker over a price."
ANCIENT PAGAN ORIGINS. Many of our Polish customs date back to pre-Christian
practices of our Slavic ancestors. The custom of pouring water is an ancient
spring rite of cleansing, purification, and fertility. The same is true of the
complimentary practice of switching with pussy willow branches, from which
Dyngus Day derives its cognomen "Smigus"—from "smiganie"—switching.
The pagan Poles bickered with nature—"dingen"—by means of pouring water and
switching with willows to make themselves "pure" and "worthy" for the coming
year. Similar practices are still present in other non-Christian cultures during
MIESZKO'S BAPTISM. Since 966 A.D., and the baptism of Prince Mieszko I, the
Church literally "baptized" and accepted these customs, raising them to a level
of grace as well as giving them a new and more profound meaning than in the
pagan Slavic culture. Other examples of such "baptism" in Polish tradition
include the blessing of Easter baskets, "Wigilia" at Christmas, St. John's
Eve—"Sobotka," and Pentecost—Zielone Swiatki, and a host of others.
During the years of the first Millennium of Christianity, baptisms were
celebrated exclusively during the Easter season, particularly Holy Saturday and
the Octave of Easter. Tradition states that Prince Mieszko I along with his
court were baptized on Easter Monday. Thus, Dyngus Day and its rites of
sprinkling with water have become a folk celebration in thanksgiving for the
fact that the first king of Poland was baptized into Christianity, bringing
Catholicism to Poland.
American Polonia has a great cause for celebration in both music and ritual on
Dyngus Day, for this day marks the beginning of Roman Catholicism in Poland, the
reason that we are today of Catholic faith!
Drawing on the significance of the words mentioned above, it may be said that on
this day, Dyngus Day, our ancient ancestors "bickered"—"dingen" with God to make
us "worthy"—"dingus" through the waters of baptism, and were thus "bought back
or redeemed" by Christ.
WEALTH OF SYMBOLS. From the wealth of symbolism of this day, our ancestors drew
some other related and not-so-related meanings. One of the moving stories was
the Legend of the Polish Princess Wanda, who was said to have drowned herself in
the Wisla River rather than marry a German nobleman she did not love. Today, one
of the three mounds in the city of Krakow is dedicated in her honor. For this
reason, girls are doused with water to immortalize the memory of Princess Wanda.
Another extrapolation of the Dyngus custom is related to the Resurrection. It is
said that the unbelievers in Jerusalem dispersed the followers of Christ—who
were spreading the news of the Resurrection on the streets of Jerusalem—by
splashing them with water.
Following the somber and reflective season of Lent, the second day of Easter,
Dyngus is an appropriate time to celebrate the wealth of our heritage in ritual,
song and dance. The emergence of Dyngus Day celebrations, even during the
blistering heat of a mid-Western "Irish" summer and throughout the United
States, is an attempt by our Polonia to celebrate and rediscover its history.
Dyngus Day, along with other festivals, allows us to unearth the bountiful
treasurers of our culture and pass on a sense of "who we are" in this
pluralistic nation of many, many such stories of origins.
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Ideas and Suggestions to Bring
Some Polishness to Your Easter
by Robert Strybel
Some articles on Polish Easter in the Pol-Am press, including many I myself have
written over the years, deal with present-day holiday celebrations in the Old
Country or the way our immigrant ancestors may have observed them before coming
to America. This item will focus on incorporating various elements of our
ancestral heritage into a Polish American Easter. It is unlikely that any single
individual, family or group would be able to introduce all these customs and
practices, but some of them may help to enrich America's commercialized scene
with some authentic traditions.
POLISH EASTER CRAFTS
There has been a growing interest in folkcrafts in recent years. and
Easter-related crafts include Polish Easter palms (palemki wielkanocne), pisanki
(and other type of Easter eggs), carved Easter Lambs, carved butter-lamb mold,
wycinanki and even Easter motifs painted on glass. The weeks preceding Easter
are a good time to hold Polish craft workshops, courses and demonstrations
which, if properly conducted, are sure to stimulate additional interest. The
Polish palms could be sold in front of church on Palm Sunday, the other items at
an Easter fair (see below).
PALM SUNDAY OBSERVANCES
If your parish does not hold a Polish-style Palm Sunday procession, this may be
the year to start one. In Polish tradition, the dried-flower rod-bouquet or
many-foot-tall pole-type palms (long wooden poles festooned with paper flowers
and greenery) are borne in a procession in which a life-size statue of Jesus
astride a donkey is pulled along. In some places someone playing the role of
Christ rides a real donkey. If such arrangements. Such pageantry is sure to
stimulate both parishioner and local-media interest. If such arrangements are
not feasible for whatever reason, this could be an easier-to-organize typical
Eucharistic procession with the Blessed Sacrament borne in a monstrance.
Wherever possible, parish banners, portable statues and holy pictures, unformed
honor guards and/or a marching band playing Polish Lenten hymns will surely
enhance the occasion.
Extensive parish grounds, possibly including outdoor Stations of the Cross,
would provide the ideal setting for a mobile Passion play, similar to the
"Misterium Paschalne" at of Poland's Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. The parts of the New
Testament characters could be played by school children, altar servers, parish
society members, etc. The Passion Play can also be performed on a stage in the
parish or school auditorium. Things can be simplified (fewer rehearsals!) by
having volunteers act out their parts (without spoken lines) with a single
narrator describing the events. He could remind actors what they should do by
saying, for instance, "At that point Simon the Cyrene was ordered to carry the
cross for Jesus" or "St. Veronica came up to Jesus and wiped His face with a
CONCERT OF POLISH SACRED MUSIC
The afternoon or evening of Palm Sunday as well as other occasions during Holy
Week are a good time for a choral and/or orchestral concert of Polish sacred
music (koncert polskiej muzyki sakralnej) centering on Lenten hymns and other
compositions devoted to Christ's Passion and Death. Some of the most beautiful
Polish music has focused on that theme, including hymns such as "Ach mój Jezu,
jak Ty kleczysz," or "Ludu mój ludu" as well as the traditional Lenten devotion
"Gorzkie zale" (Bitter Laments). Professional musicians could try their hand at
performing Krzysztof Penderecki's "Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ," regarded
as one of the world's great Lenten oratorios. Easter Sunday evening and all
throughout Easter week are the time to hold concerts of Easter music.
Mass, Confession, Holy Communion and pecial sermons delivered by an experienced
retreatmaster are the essence of the Lenten Retreat (Rekolekcje Wielkopostne),
meant to spiritually enrich participants in preparation for Easter. These may be
at one's own parish or combined with a group pilgrimage to a retreat center, of
which there are many across the United States. Religious centers with Polish
roots include American Czêstochowa in Doylestown, Pa., the Shrine-Chapel of Our
Lady of Orchard Lake (near Detroit), the Shrine of Our Lady of Czêstochowa in
Merriville, Indiana, the Polish Carmelite Retreat Center in Munster, Indiana
(both serving the Chicagoland Polonia) and the Pope John Paul II Center of Yorba
POLISH EASTER FAIR
This event, known in Polish as a "Kiermasz Wielkanocny," is a fund-raiser that
helps provide visitors with Easter-related items not readily available on
America's retail circuit. It may be confined simply to holiday artifacts or also
include traditional food and baked goods. It can be held any time from Palm
Sunday through Holy Saturday, with the exception of Good Friday (which is far
too solemn). The bazaar could feature: wicker baskets, Easter eggs (real and
wooden), pisanki-making kits, Easter lambs of various size and shape (including
butter-lamb molds and lamb cake pans), recorded Easter hymns, cookbooks, ham,
sausage, butter lambs, bottled rye sour (zur—for making bialy barszcz and
zurek), ready-made barszcz or zurek, cwikla, horseradish, rye bread, Easter Lamb
cakes, babka, mazurek, sernik, pascha and kolacz.
PRE-EASTER (EDUCATIONAL) SWIECONKA
Whereas the typical Polonian Easter party known as a swieconka is held the week
after Easter, the Detroit area's well-known popularizer of Polish traditions,
Don Samull, years ago pioneered what might be called an education pre-Easter
swieconka. This class showcases our Polish Easter heritage through lectures,
slides and the presentation of various ritual artifacts. Books, recordings and
other Easter-related items are available for perusal and purchasing, and the
event is rounded out with a meal of Polish Easter treats. This instructive
event, which provides hints on how to observe Polish-style Easter, seems worth
popularizing across our U.S. Polonia.
SHARING OUR EASTER HERITAGE
Other than holding an educational pre-Easter swieconka (above), it might require
a bit less effort to give a talk, present photos, show slides and/or display
artifacts to a school class, girl-scout group, craft circle, women's club, etc.
Teachers and clubs often welcome interesting guest speakers able to present
ethnic cultures that are not widely known. Such a presentation could include a
Polish-palm or pisanki-making demonstration. If a home-economics room or other
kitchen facility is available, this could include having participants help
prepare some traditional Polish Easter dishes.
THE DROWNING OF JUDAS
This old custom, usually practiced on Holy Wednesday could easily catch on with
Polish American school children on the last day of school before Easter
vacation. A straw-filled sack made to look like the bearded Judas, dressed in
old discards is thrown from the top of a church steeple and pounced upon by
youngsters with sticks and stones. The effigy is dragged through the streets and
dumped in the nearest body of water amid the cheers of all present. If there is
no water nearby, the effigy may be set on fire.
EASTER SHOPPING TRIP
In areas where Polish goods and foods are hard to come by, one possibility is
organizing a bus, van or car-pool trip to the nearest Polonian neighborhood
several days before Easter. Participants would be able to stock up at Polish
markets, delicatessens, sausage shops, bakeries, gift shops, etc. traditional
Polish Easter treats they lack the time and know-how to prepare. The tour could
also be timed to coincide with a Polish bake sale or Easter bazaar (above) or
Holy Week pilgrimage (below).
HOLY WEEK PILGRIMAGE
The same notion of an organized bus trip (above) can take on a religious
dimension when held during the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy
Saturday. In the Detroit area, groups led by local folkdance leader Michal
Królewski have held a Holy Thursday bus pilgrimage for decades. From various
pre-arranged points, buses converge on historic St. Hyaicinth's Roman Church for
Mass and dinner, after which a half a dozen other old Polonian parishes are
visited, including Hamtramck's Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church.
This traditional tableau showing Christ lying in His tomb is set up on Good
Friday for adoration up until Easter. If your parish does not observe this
practice or has drifted away from it, perhaps it's time to introduce it.
Persuading parish decision-makers will be easier if sufficient parishioner
interest can be demonstrated. Emphasizing that this tradition is an important
part of many parishioners' religious heritage may prove to be an effective
argument. Rotating honor guards round the tomb, including uniformed war
veterans, scouts, parish society members, etc., enhance the tableau's solemnity
HOLY SATURDAY FOOD BLESSING
This is undoubtedly the most popular Polish Easter custom, practiced by families
in Poland and Polonians world-wide. Traditional Easter foods—eggs, sausage, ham,
bread, butter (usually in the shape of a lamb), horseradish, babka, etc.—are
brought to church in baskets for the ritual. The officiating priest prays over
the baskets and sprinkles them with Holy Water. It is customary to pray at the
Lord's Tomb (above) and take home a bottle a freshly blessed Holy Water for the
family's use. Opinions vary, but many families believe the blessing ends the
Lenten fast and the œwiêcone (hallowfare, blessed food) may now be sampled.
POLISH EASTER DECORATIONS
Traditional Polish Easter motifs differ somewhat from the Anglo-Germanic ones
(bunnies, Easter lilies, fake grass, jellybeans, etc.) common in America. To do
things up right when decorating a home, business, club, parish or community
center worth remembering that typical Polish Easter plants include hyacinths,
daffodils, forsythia, puss willows and such greenery as ferns, potted palms,
boxwood and cranberry leaves. The colorful rod-type Easter palms are most
appropriate. The prime Easter symbol is, of course, the Baranek (Easter Lamb
with banner of Resurrection), not the "Osterhase" (German-originated Easter
hare). The above, as well as the beautiful multicolored pisanki, should be
prominently featured on posters and banners, in newspaper ads, printed programs,
EASTER MORNING "REZUREKCJA"(MASS)
This traditional Easter Mass takes place at daybreak, however both in Poland and
Polonia in recent years some parishes have been holding it at 7:00, 8:00, even
9:00 a.m. to enable more worshipers to participate. Topography permitting, a
Eucharistic procession (with the Blessed Sacrament borne in a monstrance beneath
a canopy and parishioners singing Easter hymns) thrice encircles the church
before Mass gets under way. The scent of incense and the jangling of altar-bells
permeates the early-morning air. Marching bands playing Easter hymns,
surplice-clad altar servers, parish-society members carrying religious banners,
uniformed groups (veterans, scouts, etc.) all lend splendor to the procession.