Easter Traditions

Carnival and Mardi Gras. From the feast of the Three Kings to "Fat Tuesday" before Ash Wednesday, the Carnival season was in full swing. This is the time for crowded, loud dances, ending with the final celebration, "ostatki", the night before Ash Wednesday. In the past, they would bake special cakes, called "plince". Even the poorest folks would eat meat on that day. According to the folk saying, "He who does not eat meat on Fat Tuesday, will be eaten by mosquitoes in the summer". They would dance 'til they dropped, and it was said that a Fat Tuesday dance will be your end. However, there was another saying, "Who does not dance on fat Tuesday will not have a good harvest" (literally, plentiful flax). This is the origin of the Fat Tuesday dance, "The Long Flax". In the Bytow region of Kaszuby, most of those celebrations took place in the inns and bars. The custom of colorful traveling characters in strange costumes (przebierancy, funny dressed folk) has been preserved to this day. Games and tricks are allowed, but only until midnight. Then it is time for Lent; all is quiet and somber. On Ash Wednesday, all have ash sprinkled on their heads, express sorrow for their sins and begin their time of atonement.

Polish Easter Dictionary by Robert Strybel - This extensive list of Polish and English terms related to the Easter season has been posted to internet forums. This web page was copied from a post by "Christiana Conway" to the defunct PHSR forum. Assuming Mr. Strybel is the original author and gave permission to post this list, the PHSR assumes we are free to retain this here. Let us know if you are aware of any copyright issues.

The list is so large, it really deserves a formatted, hyperlinked set of web pages. If anyone is looking for a volunteer web project, contact the PHSR and we would love to host a prettier version of this fine list.

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 return.)

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 lamentations).

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 March 19.

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 house-cleaning.

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 available.

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 branches.

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 river.

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 zurek elsewhere.

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 Easter table.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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 paper.


  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 is done.

The Origins of Dyngus by Ks. Czeslaw M. Krysa - (Again with the copright concerns. It appears Mr. Strybel copied this into his list. Let PHSR know if this is a copyright issue.)

"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 Hawkins Day."

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 springtime.

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.

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.


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).


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 cloth."


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 Linda, California.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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 and significance.


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.


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, etc.


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.