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Friday, April 22, 2011
EUROPE: POLAND: PREPARATIONS FOR EASTER
THENEWS.PL REPORT: Poles around the world are busying themselves in preparation for the Easter holidays, which, in keeping with its Roman Catholic traditions, remains one of the mostimportant dates in thenational calendar.
Stocking up on eggs and other seasonal items such as cake and ham is a must, whilst in the churches and cathedrals, the ancient rites of Holy Week provide a moving echo of centuries past.
Good Friday, marking Christ's crucifixion, is correspondingly the most mournful stage of Holy Week. No masses are held, but the churches fill up with the faithful, and the liturgy takes on a decidedly solemn tone.
Echoing Christ's entombment, volunteers from local parishes unveil a Polish speciality, Groby Panskie (The Lord's Tombs). These are fanciful recreations of Jesus lying in his tomb, often life-size, and although amateur, they can be considered authentic incarnations of folk art, often highly inventive and striking in form.
On Saturday, the tone becomes more upbeat. Families get dressed up and take little baskets of victuals to church, where the priest blesses them en masse. This beguiling custom, known as Swiecone (The Blessed), was conjured up in many old Polish paintings. In the countryside, the tradition was always especially vibrant, owing to the colourful regional costumes, some of which endure today.
Easter Sunday typically revolves around the home. Food blessed in church the previous day is now supplemented by many hearty dishes and consumed in an elaborate breakfast, which usually does not start until after midday. Exquisitely painted eggs are often placed on the table, usually hailing from the countryside, although children sometimes have a go themselves.
On Easter Monday, the mood changes yet once more. Youngsters are free to douse unwitting punters with pails of water, providing plenty of opportunity for mischief. The custom of Smigus Dyngus, or Lany Poniedzialek (Wet Monday), has been enacted for centuries, and in Krakow, girls by the name of Wanda can technically be thrown into the River Vistula (echoing the fate of a fabled princess), although in reality, locals don't go that far these days.
On Tuesday, life begins to return to normal, although many schools have this day off too. In Krakow, the ancient ceremony of Rekawka has been revived in recent years. This event, which takes place on the pagan burial mound of Prince Krak, combines pre-Christian and Catholic traditions, with a dash of medieval swordplay thrown in for good measure.