There’s no escaping the connotations that Easter in Poland is all about religion; however this is far from reality, it is also about eating and spending time with your family & friends.
Second only to Christmas, Easter is one of the most beautiful celebrations of the year, it is also a time which marks the end of winter and the promise of sunny weather ahead.
Easter in Poland in linked to the Western Roman Catholic calendar; which dictates that Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring so there is a pagan connection working alongside Christian rites and practices. Families across Poland take part in Easter celebration regardless of their religious beliefs.
Preparation for the Easter holiday begins with Lent, the 40 days that mark the time prior to Resurrection Day, a time when, traditionally, people were not supposed to eat meat or sweets or enjoy alcohol and tobacco and this practice was once deeply rooted within Polish culture. Nowadays, the majority of Poles do not follow the rules of Lent to the letter and prefer instead to use this period of time to perhaps abstain from one thing such as alcohol or chocolate.
In Poland. the week preceding Easter is all about spring cleaning and getting your property spick and span. It also includes an evening mass on Easter Friday called Droga Krzyżowa (Way of the Cross).
The Saturday before Easter Sunday is traditionally used to paint hard-boiled eggs (pisanki) and prepare Easter baskets (Święconka) ready to take to the church to be blessed. Each basket is filled with a variety of foods and usually contain a piece of sausage, bread, salt & pepper, pisanki, fresh cress or oats and a small sugar or plastic lamb. Each basket is also lined with either a white lace or linen napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood.
After being blessed, the Easter basket is taken home and must remain untouched until the next morning, Easter Sunday.
On Easter Sunday, some Poles go to church at 6am for the Resurrection mass; which involves a procession; however the day is primarily focused on family and food. Easter breakfast is a big event in Poland and it includes the contents of the Easter basket in addition to a feast of sausage, ham, roast meats, pâté, eggs, horseradish relish and bread. Its not unusual for the Easter breakfast to take up to 3 hours.
Similar to Christmas with the sharing of opłatek, people at the Easter breakfast will share the contents of the Easter basket. The rules are that the contents must be shared evenly and with everyone.
After the meats comes the cakes with the usual offering being either a sweet yeast cake with a hole in the middle known as a babka or a Mazurek; which is a cake covered in icing topped with almonds, walnuts, dried fruit and roasted seeds. Plus there will always be at least one cheesecake!
The last day of Easter is Easter Monday, known in Poland as Śmigus Dyngus or Wet Monday.