Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday – Poniedziałek Wielkanocny

by Staś Kmieć
for the full article - Easter Traditions: The Holy Week – Wielki Tydzień check the April issue of The
Polish American Journal
The second day known as Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) or Śmigus-Dyngus is a favorite among younger people. Breaking from the solemnity of Lent, youths find ways to douse each other with water. Some believe this originated in pagan times, while others derive it from
the baptism of Poland in 966. Śmigus dyngus starts at the break of dawn. Traditionally, only men doused girls with water. Maidens soaked on that day would have a greater chance of getting married that year. It is essentially a marriage of two old Easter rites. "Dyng" meant redemption; "Śmigus" (a word probably of German origin) was to hit one another with green branches, and douse with water.
Various local customs became connected to Easter Monday. Just like caroling at Christmas, chodzenie po dyngusie meant traveling from house-to-house, reciting verses of the Passion, singing, and expecting a
In Kraków, Emmaus established in memory the walk of the apostles on the road to Emmaus with the risen Christ . Processions of religious brotherhoods carry a statue of the risen Christ holding a red banner. Also in the vicinity, men smeared with soot walked along country roads and city
streets hooking arms, holding, or kissing those passing by.
On Tuesday, residents meet on the right bank of the Wisła River, where the townspeople with
their own hands once heaped the grave of Krak in a custom is called Rękawka.
Siuda Baba refers to the rites of spring, and the legend of a pagan temple in Lednica near Wieliczka where a priestess, who guarded the fire in it, would go out once a year in search of successor. She is black with soot, as the year-round duty had not afforded her time to wash. This custom is now preserved with a man dressed as a disheveled woman in tattered clothes. He carries a large cross in hand, strings of beads made of chestnuts or potatoes around his
neck, and a large basket on his back wrapped in a sheet.
In Kujawy there is przywoływek dyngusowych, where at dusk on Easter Sunday or Easter Monday morning, boys affiliated with the Stowarzyszeniu Klubu Kawalerów (Bachelors’ Club) walk in procession to the village square with a large orchestra. On a platform, high tree, or the roof of the inn, they recite verses about the local girls. Praising or ridiculing them, they accept how much water will be shed to secure a meeting with a girl or to protect her from malicious mischief.

In the southern Małopolska area, mainly in the area of Limanowa, men disguisers called dziady śmigustne or słomiaki wore high hats and outfits braided from straw and went through the village in silence asking for offerings. As according to legend – emissaries who did not want to believe in the resurrection of Christ and proclaim the good news, lost their voices as a punishment. In the area of Mielec silent mówiące beggars pour water from containers with wishes for a good harvest.
In central Poland – Rawa Mazowiecka, Lowicz, Sieradz and Łęczyca, and also in the Śląsk and Wielkopolska regions, kurkiem po dyngusie is observed. A clay or stuffed rooster is placed on a decorated red two-wheeled cart. In ancient times a live rooster was sacrificed to the deities of
fertility and harvest. Kurcarskie celebrations are held in the spirit of courtship and intended to promote the pairing of young couples to provide descendants. The rooster for centuries has been a symbol of strength, beauty and masculinity. Songs and jokes were rewarded with eggs, sausage, cakes and money.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday – Niedziela Wielkanocna, Święto Zmartwychwstania Pańskiego

by Staś Kmieć
for the full article - Easter Traditions: The Holy Week – Wielki Tydzień check the April issue of The Polish American Journal
The celebration begins with a solemn Resurrection Mass, followed by Easter breakfast (Święcone). It was imperative that every member of the family have a taste of all the blessed foods and tradition forbids women to cook during this day, so all the food is prepared during the week before.

The table is covered with a white cloth and the centerpiece is the Easter lamb (angusek from the Latin Angus). The custom of setting the table with a lamb holding a red flag was introduced in the sixteenth century by Pope Urban V in the 16th century. Today, a Polish red and white banner is sometimes used.

A single blessed egg is divided and shared with each person at the table to ensure health, happiness and prosperity. Biały barszcz (white soup) is served with hard-boiled eggs and often meats, white cheese and horseradish from the Easter basket are added. A variety of sausages, sliced cold meats and roasted meats are served, along with side dishes such as: pickled mushrooms (grzybki marynowane) and beet and horseradish relish (ćwikła). Cakes include mazureka decorative, flat cake covered with almond paste and other nuts, colorfully iced and decorated with jam, nuts and raisins, sernik cheesecake, and in southern regions – piróg cake with a rice or kasza filling.
The traditional tall babka egg bread, which is baked in a scalloped form, is wonderfully light with a slightly sweet flavor. Using a similar recipe is the paska bread with its intricately-crafted braided top. In Podlasie and southern regions, a sponge cake known as sękacz is baked above a flame on a rotary spit. As a result of pouring layers of dough on the spit, its spikey form resembles a pine tree.

Traditional games using eggs are enacted such as: rolling eggs on the table, or walatka or wybitka – gently tapping the eggs thus scoring points and wins, for the longest period without a crack. A hill rolling game occurred in Upper Śląsk; while in Śląsk and Pomorze, according to German custom, baskets were prepared with surprises for the children.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS: Święconka -Easter Basket Blessing

by Staś Kmieć
for the full article - Easter Traditions: The Holy Week – Wielki Tydzień check the April issue of The Polish American Journal
On a Holy Saturday morning in my youth: dressed up in fine clothes, my brother and I prepared to bring our first Easter basket to church to be blessed at the parish Święconka. My mother and father assembled and arranged the contents according to tradition and upon entering the church hall; we were introduced to an ancient Polish ritual and what would become an annual commitment. With each year, the baskets became more elaborate, and eventually embodied the full extent of the custom. Extended family members living four hours away had the privilege to have visits from the parish priest, who would travel from house-to-house to personally bless the Easter table and leave with an envelope in hand.
Two sisters made our family complete, and each year a basket was blessed in either location. As the years went by and elder relatives passed away, celebrations centered at our hometown. Then the Polish parish was closed, and the observance was relocated to a church of merger.
The American priest welcomed this tradition – one he had never heard of. With Polish blessings translated into English by our displaced Polish pastor, the custom continued, and American baskets containing chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans were added. The Polish choir sang, as many parishioners looked in fascination at the odd Polish baskets filled with lambs made from butter or sugar, intricately decorated eggs, sausage, ham, smoked bacon, twaróg white cheese, babka, bread, horseradish, salt, a candle, and water to be blessed. Unlike the other baskets with cellophane grass, these baskets were decorated with fresh flowers, pussy willows, ribbons, and sprigs of greenery and covered with white eyelet embroidered doilies.
The cherished Święconka tradition is one of many Easter traditions that are identifiable
and unique to Polish Catholicism.

Holy Saturday – Wielka Sobota

by Staś Kmieć
for the full article - Easter Traditions: The Holy Week – Wielki Tydzień check the April issue of The Polish American Journal
The blessing of water, fire, thorns and food takes place on this day. In Poland, blessing of the baskets is a practice
dating to the 15th century or earlier, and one which is still maintained by Polish families today. The mother of the family or an older child carries a basket filled with Easter offerings to be blessed by the parish priest. Holy water for home use can be taken from the church.
Historically, only the rich had food blessed in their homes, while the poorer rural and urban population wrapped food and traveled to churches, where the priest blessed them. The poorest brought only bread, salt and eggs. The richer set their entire tables to be blessed directly. In rural areas, the size and contents of a basket was a matter of pride and standing in the community.
The Easter lamb made of butter, sugar, pastry, marzipan, clay, plaster, blown glass, or wood stands for Jesus, the Paschal lamb. The hard-cooked eggs symbolize new life or Christ rising from his tomb. Bread represents the bread of life given by God. Meat and sausages are symbols of the resurrected Christ, horseradish acknowledges accepting the bitter with the sweet in life. Salt is to add zest to life and preserve us from corruption.
Liturgically speaking, Holy Saturday lasts until 6 pm or dusk, after which the Easter Vigil
is celebrated. The service begins with a fire and the lighting of the new Paschal candle. During the "Gloria,” the church statues and icons, which had been covered during Passiontide, are
dramatically unveiled, the organ plays and bells ring once again.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday – Wielki Piątek

by Staś Kmieć
for the full article - Easter Traditions: The Holy Week – Wielki Tydzień check the April issue of The Polish American Journal
Holy Friday is the day of deepest mourning and a strict fast is observed. Traditionally a time of silence and prayer is observed from 12 to 3 o'clock. In church during afternoon service, a coffin with a cross and surrounded by candles is prominently displayed, and a ceremony of adoring and kissing the Cross is observed at the conclusion.
At Stations of the Cross the martyred Christ is offered to the grave. In cities and towns, people visit various churches to view representations of Christ’s tomb, which are often beautifully and artistically arranged and decorated in flowers.
Honor guards (Turki Wielkanocne) consisting of local fraternities, students, scouts and even the army keep watch in shifts through the night.
Staged events of the Passion often occurred, along with a procession. Mystery Plays are staged at several shrines (including Kalwaria).
Not only was there abstention from meat dishes, but also a single meal fast. The devout voluntarily refrained from eating and drinking, or would drink only water and eat dry bread.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday – Wielki Czwartek

by Staś Kmieć
Also known as Święta Kapłanów (the feast of the priests), this day is known for when the sacrament of the priesthood was instituted at the Last Supper. There is the consecration of oils; all bells are silenced following “Gloria” and replaced by kołatki (wooden hammer or rotating rattle boxes) as a sign of mourning, but also representing the betrayal of Judas; the organ is not played; and at the end of the Mass the altar is stripped bare. Dark matins cover religious artifacts and statues, and all candles are extinguished. Traditionally, the organ is silent from Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil, as are all bells or other instruments; the only music during this period being unaccompanied chant.
Priests would hit the altar top as a sign of the chaos that followed when the Roman soldiers captured Christ leaving the disciples terrified. This high rite was an excuse for young boys prone to mischief, and who could hardly endure the Lenten seriousness to run through the streets making noise with their own kołatki and by banging sticks on fences and gates.
A straw or stuffed effigy of Judas with thirty pieces of broken glass in his pocket (symbolizing the thirty pieces of silver) was hung, or thrown from the church tower where onlookers would catch the figure and wander through the streets shouting "Judasz!” The effigy is beaten until completely destroyed; the remains are burned or thrown into a pond or river.