Traditional Polish Easter Cuisine

Easter holiday is one of the most important in Poland. Easter meals are deeply symbolic so Easter food plays a very special role in the celebrations. On the Holy Saturday people rush to churches with ‘święconka’ (baskets with symbolic food to be blessed) which contains sampling of Easter foods:

  • eggs – symbolise life and Christ’s resurrection
  • bread – symbolic of Jesus
  • lamb – represents Christ
  • salt – represents purification
  • horseradish – symbolic of the bitter sacrifice of Christ
  • ham – symbolic of great joy and abundance

The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood, the typical Easter evergreen. The food blessed in the church remains untouched according to local traditions until either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

Easter breakfast includes the foods blessed on Easter Saturday as well as other traditional Easter foods and is typically a family-oriented occasion. Hard boiled eggs and cold meats like sausage often make up the Polish Easter breakfast. Zurek soup (The sour rye soup) served with boiled eggs halves and sausage is a must as well as Polish Easter Babka (slightly sweet Polish cake with raisins) for dessert.

The table is usually decorated with coloured hard boiled eggs called ‘pisanki’. The word pisanka is derived from the verb ‘pisać’ which in contemporary Polish means exclusively ‘to write’ yet in old Polish meant also ‘to paint’. Originating as a pagan tradition, pisanki were absorbed by Christianity to become the traditional Easter egg. Pisanki are now considered to symbolise the revival of nature and the hope that Christians gain from faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Poland’s National Independence Day

National Independence Day is celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of Poland’s resumption of independent statehood in 1918 after 123 years of partition by Russia, Prussia and Austria. The foundation of the Second Polish Republic is considered a key event by many Poles.

National Independence Day is the most important Polish national holiday. After years of partitions done by Austria, Prussia and Russia between 1772 and 1795, national uprisings (November Uprising of 1830 and January Uprising of 1863), struggles and efforts in various fields, Poles, owing to their steadfastness, patriotism and heroism, managed to regain their freedom. Józef Piłsudski, “First Marshal of Poland”, played an enormous role in Poland’s recovery of sovereignty.

The date of 11 November was announced a national holiday in 1937. Since 1939 to 1989, celebration of the holiday was forbidden. After the collapse of communist government, the holiday gained particular significance and it is now a red letter day.

Major celebrations, attended by Polish State authorities, are held in Warsaw at Piłsudski Square. Sharply at noon, a ceremonious change of guards takes place before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Some photos: courtesy of Jestem z Woli >

Lutheran cemetery in Warsaw

All Saints’ Day (Nov.1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov.2) in Warsaw

The tradition of Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints’ Day) and Dzień Zaduszny or Zaduszki (All Souls’ Day) began in the first centuries of Christianity. Today, it is an important holiday in many countries that are predominantly Catholic. All Saints’ Day has been designated by the Roman Catholic Church as the day to pray for the Saints of the church. All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer for all who have died. In Poland the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. Beginning on November 1st and throughout the following week, cemeteries are filled with people, flowers, and thousands of candles (znicze). These special candles can burn anywhere from 24 hours to a week, depending on their size. At night, during the week following All Saints’ Day, they give the cemeteries of Poland a glow that can be seen from many kilometers away.

Old Powazki cemetery in Warsaw at All Saints Day

Old Powazki cemetery in Warsaw at All Saints Day

However, due to later common misunderstandings, it is performed nowadays mainly on All Saints Day, but, in that case is not called Zaduszki – the word Zaduszki originates from dzień zaduszny which can be translated as the day of the prayer for souls, and thus is more closely related to All Souls’ Day.

Lutheran cemetery in Warsaw

Lutheran cemetery in Warsaw

The first day of November is a holiday in Poland. Streets are filled with silent and solemn crowds, and cemeteries glow with thousands of candles, presenting a unique and picturesque scene.

It is important to note that cemeteries and memorials are an important aspect of Polish culture throughout the year. Grave sites are most often cared for and maintained by family members and friends. Throughout Poland you will also see monuments and plaques commemorating those killed during World War II.

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May 2nd – Polish Flag Day

Polish National Flag

Flag Day was introduced to Poland in 2004, bridging the gap between International Workers’ Day on 1 May and Constitution Day on 3 May. The 3 May holiday, which celebrates the democratic constitution passed by Polish nobles in parliament on 3 May 1791, was banned by the communist regime, but reinstated in 1990. During the Cold War era, party functionaries were compelled to make sure that all national flags were taken down on 2 May, so that they would not remain aloft during the banned holiday. Owing to the symbolism of the forbidden holiday, 3 May was a popular date for protests by dissidents against the communist regime.

Flag Day has an added resonance as on 2 May 1945, Polish troops hoisted the national flag over the ruins of Hitler’s Berlin at the iconic Prussian Victory Column (Siegessaule), almost six years after the Nazi invasion of Poland. It was immediately noticed by Soviets. It was  “abuse to the Soviet Union” to fix a flag without permission of  “Red Army authorities” and even before Red Army fixed red flag.  Polish soldiers were arrested and avoided to be shot only because German capitulation announcementt.

The Polish Flag day celebrated in Warsaw

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The national colors are white and red in two horizontal parallel strips, the upper strip being white and the lower red. The process whereby those colors became the national flag was quite complicated and gradual. The origin of the flag colors goes back to the Piast dynasty times and it relates to a white eagle on a red shield. Those colors were subsequently used as national in the 18th century and cockades were worn by soldiers and civilians in their caps. Unfortunately colors of cockades and the number of strips were not always the same. This lack of uniformity was finished on February 7th, 1831, by Polish Sejm with its resolution which adopted the white and red colors of the coat of arms as official colors of Polish Kingdom and Great Lithuanian Princedom.

During XIX and XX century those colors together with a white eagle with a crown on a red shield were symbols of fight for freedom of Poland and patriotism. Under this flag Polish soldiers fought for sovereignty and honor of our country. During World War II Poles were fighting under white and red flag at the front in France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Libya, Soviet Russia and Italy, on the ground and in the air, with honor and love for Poland and freedom.

Nowadays, the flag with white and red stripes is a symbol of Polish sovereignty, solidarity, tradition, patriotism and honor.