Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week.
Palms are blessed in church on this day to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
Of course palm trees do not grow in Poland and so other plants are substituted. Often pussy willow is used as the catkins are usually out around this time. My mother always called pussy willow – palma – the Polish for palm.
Twigs For Sale in the Old Square in Kraków
Palms are also made from dried grasses and corn which are often dyed to make them colourful or from coloured paper which is rolled and the edges cut to make a fringe.
In many villages the farmers would make huge palms for the procession completing with each other to see who had the biggest and best.
The Main Square in Kraków – Decorated with Large Palms
It is still Lent in Holy Week so the food eaten is simple and often meat, butter and egg free. Most baking and cooking done now is to make food to eat at Easter.
As well as going to church services it is a time for houses to undergo a massive clean-up especially inside.
Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent – the day before Easter.
This is the only day in the Catholic year on which Mass is not celebrated.
In Poland there is the tradition on this day to have the food for Easter blessed.
This has its roots in the early medieval church in the 12th Century and the food would have originally been just bread and eggs.
In times past in villages the priest would have gone around to people’s houses and blessed the food there. Nowadays people bring a basket of food to the church and the food is blessed with Holy Water and is then taken home and not eaten till the Easter Sunday Breakfast.
Once blessed this basket is called święconka meaning that which has been blessed
The basket is lined with a cloth – often white linen and sometimes embroidered. A white linen cloth is used to cover the basket. These cloths represent the white shroud in which Jesus was wrapped.
What goes into the basket depends on several factors but hard boiled eggs and bread are usually present. Everything in the basket has a symbolic meaning.
Eggs – Christ’s Resurrection – a symbol of life.
Bread – Christ as the Bread of Heaven.
Salt – Preservation & Purification & Zest for Life
Horseradish – The Harsh & Bitter sacrifice of Christ.
Cooked Meat & Sausage – Joy & Abundance of God’s mercy.
Babka – The risen dough – this represents the Risen Christ.
Shaped Lamb (butter/cake/bread) – Christ – The Lamb of God -(see Lamb Bread)
Cheese – Moderation.
Butter – End of Lent.
Getting a basket ready to take to Church
People coming & going to church in Kraków with baskets of food.
Food for sale for Easter in Kraków.
The special meal at Easter in Poland is the Easter Breakfast – although it is a lot later than a normal breakfast being usually around 11am
This meal is a cold buffet and includes the food that was blessed in church on Easter Saturday.
The hard boiled eggs are cut up into quarters or eighths and they are shared between everyone present at the start of the meal.
Since posting I received the following photographs from my friend in Leeds who is The Director of the Polish Saturday School.
Sugar Lambs to go in the basket for blessing.
Salt Dough Lambs – made for the Easter Fair