It only seems like five minutes ago that we were celebrating Christmas, however Easter will soon be upon us and Poland like most of Europe will be celebrating it. But with Poland being a Catholic country Easter is a big event with a number of traditions happening to mark the occasion. If you have booked a stag weekend in Krakow over Easter then fear not- there will still be places open with some of the bars and restaurants in and around the old town remaining open over this weekend- but the range will be limited. For any people who are coming to Krakow over Easter, here are a few of the traditions and events that you should look out for.
Many people have the misconception about Poland that it is quite a grey country with little colour, perhaps a throwback from its years ‘behind the iron curtain’, however anybody who has visited Poland, and in particular Krakow, will know that this is simply not true and it is actually an extremely beautiful place full of colour. This is particularly true around Easter time, with the parks and green areas in and around the city blossoming with the first flowers of spring. As well as the natural colour, there is also a lot of artificial colour created with a number of colourfully woven totems being sold on the market in the run up to holy week (the week before Easter). These totems are actually Polish versions of the Easter Palm, with Polish people making their own alternatives due to the obvious lack of tropical palms.
Painted eggs are also a big part of Easter in Poland, as they are in many other countries. The name for these in Polish is pisanka, and they were originally a pagan tradition until they were adopted by Christianity to become the traditional Easter egg. They are used to symbolise the revival of nature and the hope gained from the revival of Jesus Christ. Many families in Poland will take their baskets of pisanki to the church on Easter Saturday to be blessed.
The Easter traditions begin properly on Easter Thursday, where at many cathedrals around the country the priest will wash the feet of 12 elderly men as an echo of Christ’s gesture towards the apostles at the last supper, with the following day, Good Friday, being one of the most somber days in the calendar as people recall the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on this day. Saturday is then a much more cheery occasion with families going to the church together to get baskets of food blessed. A typical basket contains eggs, cake, salt, sausage, and bread, as well as the aforementioned painted eggs. A small model of a lamb is also often included in the basket. Easter Sunday is then a family occasion, with people starting the day with a big breakfast consisting of the food that was blessed at the church the previous day. This will be the quietest day of the holiday, with many shops closed for the day, however in and around the main square there should be a few things open. It is on Easter Monday that perhaps the most bizarre part of the tradition happens with an age old customer called Smigus Dyngus. It is an echo of an old pagan tradition, and Polish people have permission to soak each other in water which results in the streets being full of people having water fights, with even some pre-arranged events taking place across the city.
The city then returns to normal on the Tuesday, however there is a traditional fair known as the Rekawka which is a medieval event where actors dressed as knights take part in sword fights and other forms of pagan revelry. The fair takes place at Kopiec Krakusa, which is a large mound just outside the centre of Krakow.