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.