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
basket with ‘święconka’
Easter Babka cake
pisanka – coloured egg
White sausage and horseraddish
modern style ‘pisanki’
basket with ‘święconka’
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.
When you ask about this sweet delicacy anywhere else in Poland nobody will probably seem to know what you are talking about… Pańska skórka? What is it? Although known for more than 100 years it is only Warsaw special candy, which in addition, you can’t buy in any shop….
Pańska Skórka is a type of chewy candy (similar to taffy) sold at cemeteries during All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). 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. 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.
Pańska skórka is connected to this old tradition but it is only known locally in Warsaw. In Kraków similar candies can be found but they are called “Turkish honey” (Polish: “miodek turecki“) and unlike pańska skórka they contain nuts.
Pańska skórka is a home-made candy – to tell you the truth it is better not to think about the hygienic conditions of production…. but it reminds the wonderful taste of the childhood and recalls the sweet memories from the past.
Pańska skórka is made of water, sugar, a bit of vanilla, some honey, whipped egg whites and flavored with red fruit juice in order to finally get a white-pink color. It was for the first time described in the “Warsaw Dictionary” of 1908 as soothing cough medicine for children sold in pharmacies, exactly 100 years later – in 2008 pańska skórka was recognized by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture as traditional regional product of Mazovia.
So… next time you are in Warsaw, make sure you put this delicacy to your test 🙂