Sunday, March 29, 2009

Palm Sunday in Poland

Zdzislaw Piotr Jasinski
(Warsaw 1863 - Warsaw 1932 )

"Palm Sunday", 1891, oil on canvas, private collection

Traditional Easter celebrations in Poland are as old and elaborate as Christmas celebrations and they involve a lot of preparations.
One week before Palm Sunday, housewives stopped baking bread through the fear that the bread they baked throughout the rest of the year would spoil. Not until the Holy Week did they start baking. In some parts they began to do so on Good Friday, in others- it was not permitted to bake anything at all that day. If any housewife violated this ban, the entire village would be in danger of a long drought, which could be repelled only by throwing the pots and guilty housewife into a pond.

The celebration of Easter is preceded by Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday. Palm branches and twigs are indispensable accessories of the events of this day. They commemorate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. After the festivities, palm leaves were used for magic rites, such as conjuring up storms and consecrating women at childbirth and sick domestic animals. The original palm branch is replaced by a willow or raspberry branch, and is decorated with ribbons, flowers, and leaves. It is believed that swallowing a willow catkin from a branch consecrated by a priest would bring health, and palm branch placed behind a holy image until the following year would bring the inhabitants luck.

The church bells that had resounded from Palm Sunday onwards fell siFlaxt on Holy Thursday. Rattles and clappers took their place. Fires were lit at crossroads so that wayfarers and poor people could warm themselves. Meals were also placed at these spots so that these people could nourish themselves – and together with them the good spirits of the house. On the morning of Holy Thursday, the vestments are changed on the miraculous icon in the chapel of the Pauline monastery at Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. This is one of the most important sites of the religious cult of the Poles, and has been venerated as a national shrine since 14 th century.

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