Malopolska Easter traditions
The period leading up to Easter is Lent. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, just before the fifth Sunday of Lent, crosses and images are covered up in churches and chapels. This custom originated in the Middle Ages. The so-called Lenten curtains were decorated with whole Passion scenes or sometimes only with Passion attributes. It was a kind of the Biblia pauperum, that is, representations of biblical events in graphic form for the faithful who could not read. There are eight such unique painted canvases in Małopolska. They have been preserved in three wooden churches located on the Wooden Architecture Route in Małopolska. The Church of St John the Baptist in Orawka has the most significant number of curtains, four, two each in the Church of the Holy Trinity and St Anthony Abbot in Łopuszna and the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Tłuczań, near Wadowice. In the Church in Orawka, where the tradition is still alive, the curtains are displayed for 10 days between the eve of the fifth Sunday in Lent and Palm Sunday. The oldest and largest one dates from 1676. It is the "Pieta under the Cross". The other three, dating from the early 19th century, depict, as the oldest one, scenes from the New Testament: "Scourging of Christ", "Penitent Mary Magdalene", and "Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows."
On Palm Sunday, Market Square in Lipnica Murowana usually turns into a square sparkling with the colours of traditional palms. Lipnica's inhabitants cultivate the tradition of their ancestors by preparing tall palms to be displayed at the Lipnica Palm and Handicraft Competition. The palms must be made of natural raw materials, such as willow shoots (wicker), dried flowers, evergreen vegetation such as boxwood, juniper, and tissue paper flowers and ribbons. Lower palms are placed right next to the statue of St. Simon. The tallest ones are tied to the old lime trees growing around the square. The competition attracts large audiences every year and is accompanied by a fair and performances by local folk groups.
A wonderful collection of Easter palms, gathered from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day, is kept in the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków. Among the approximately 250 objects collected, the vast majority are Vilnius palms, and among the traditional Polish palms, there are 10 Easter palms originating from Rabka and its surroundings.
Palm Sunday is also one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox and Greek Catholic calendar. Lemkos used to start Wełykdeń, the Holy Week, from Kwitna Nedila. It was then that a cord was made of flax for a new whip, with which bahnitku (a willow tree with catkins) was tied, preparing it for blessing. Palms brought by Lemkos to the Orthodox Church are much more modest than those blessed in Roman Catholic Churches. Made of willow twigs, they are decorated only with colourful ribbons and green plants, especially boxwood.
In the area around Kraków - Babice, Zielonki, Trojanowice and Tomaszowice, Pucheroki go around houses on Palm Sunday. These are boys dressed in sheepskins turned inside out, girded with ropes, with faces painted with black soot and conical caps made of colourful tissue paper on their heads. This custom, which originated from the old appeals of Kraków's students, was known as early as the 7th century. Pucheroki ask for small donations, delivering an oration, rhymes, witty dialogues and Christmas wishes. The hosts always welcome the collectors with sympathy.
The most famous Mystery of the Passion of Christ plays occur at the Passion-Marian Sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. Kalwaria was founded in 1600 on the model of the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem. On the hills surrounding the basilica, a complex of several dozen chapels was created, picturesquely set among the Beskid landscapes, which are connected by Kalwaria paths created for prayer and meditation. The celebration of Holy Week traditionally begins here on Palm Sunday with a re-enactment of the scene of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. The Bernardine Fathers and actors play the roles of biblical characters, but the pilgrims treat the mystery not as a theatrical event but as a prayer. The scenes of biblical drama, combined with festivities, gather thousands of believers. From Palm Sunday to Good Friday, nearly 150,000 pilgrims from Poland and Europe pass through Kalwaria. This year, due to the epidemic, the traditional celebrations will not take place, but we encourage you to visit Kalwaria paths individually.
Lent and the coming Easter may be a good reason to visit Miechów - a town only 40 km away from Kraków, where the unique Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre together with the former monastery buildings is located. The Miechów Basilica is a place of particular veneration of the Holy Sepulchre. Every Friday, the Stations of the Cross and the Mystery of the Passion, Death and Glorious Resurrection of Christ are celebrated here. The Paschal Triduum is celebrated with great solemnity.
Eggs are an inseparable part of the Easter basket as a symbol of the rebirth of life, and Easter eggs (pisanki) are nowadays an obligatory element of the Easter holiday. The custom of decorating eggs has been known since ancient times, and the oldest Easter eggs found in Poland date back to the end of the 10th century. It is a complex art, requiring patience and skill. Today, artists use various techniques. One of the most popular is wax writing or batik. After drawing a pattern, an egg is dipped in dye. Finally, the wax is removed, revealing the coloured pattern. Another technique is to scrape the coloured shell with a sharp tool, creating an ornament. The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków has the most extensive collection of Easter eggs in Poland, about 9,000.
Siuda Baba - a soot-stained, scruffy figure wearing a torn skirt and decorated with potato beads - appears once a year on Easter Monday. It used to be in many places in the Małopolska region, but today only in Wieliczka near Kraków and Lednica Górna near Lwówek. The tradition has its roots in a legend about a pagan temple of the goddess Leda in Lednica Górna. A sacred fire was burning there and was supposed to be kept burning by a priestess performing her function for a year. Afterwards, greased from sitting by the fire, she searched houses for her replacement. Today, Siuda Baba also searches for girls, but only to repurchase them with money or a kiss, which ends with her being covered in soot.
On Easter Monday, Dziady Śmiguśne - young men dressed in straw costumes and hiding behind masks - prowl the streets of Dobra. The custom is supposedly related to the 13th-century Tartar invasion of the monastery in Szczyrzyc. The Tatars chased the prisoners south, and near Porąbka, they selected them: they hanged those who could not go any further and let those in good condition go free but cut off their tongues so they could not tell anyone anything. The captives were dispersed around the area. It was Easter time, cold, so they huddled around each other with straw. They managed to survive thanks to the kindness of the locals. On Easter Monday, bachelors dressed in straw walk around Dobra to commemorate this event. However, they do not say anything but make sounds characteristic of a person with a cut tongue - moaning and gurgling - and pour water on everyone.