Śmigus-Dyngus and Other Easter Frivolity

We like the flare that tradition brings to everyday life. As Canadians we are a hodgepodge of many traditions, but there are few prevailing national traditions. Enter Poland – where tradition and pageantry assert themselves in the everyday, almost every day. With the Easter season not too far behind us (that pesky spring snow is starting to melt), we want to take a moment to share all that we love about Wielkanoc (Easter) in Poland:

Śmigus-Dyngus or lany poniedziałek (Wet Monday) is a tradition we first encountered in Slovakia – Matthew even tried it on Amber. Once. And never again. Men pour water on women, of drastically varied amounts, to symbolize purity for the new season and to whip up some spring rain (or snow this year). It’s a fun day and basically turns into a citywide water fight. Seriously bring extra clothes if venturing out.

Palm Sunday is also quite the shindig as palms here are not so leafy green. Currently our son has a palm in the shape of a yellow chicken sitting in his room. We’re not sure if it was blessed, but it’s cute.

Around Easter time the Vernal Equinox is observed in some parts of Poland and a straw doll representing Marzanna, the Slavic goddess of death and winter, is drown. Ironically, some people had to cut holes in the ice this year to get to the river. This act symbolizes the beginning of spring and nature’s victory over death. We’re not sure if Matel has a branch in Poland, but we wouldn’t be shocked to see a Marzanna Barbie make an appearance in the near future.

On Easter Saturday you will see droves of people flocking to churches to have their baskets of breakfast blessed by a priest (usually done in mass quantities every 30 minutes). Once blessed, the bread, salt, pepper and eggs inside the basket become breakfast on Sunday morning. It marks the end of the fast of Lent. The order of who eats first (or at all) is decided by an Egg Battle. Each person present is given a boiled egg. You must hit your egg against that of your opponent’s. If your egg cracks open, you eat. If not, you challenge the next person. No cracked egg technically means no breakfast. Full disclosure, if we had Creme Eggs here in Poland, we’d do it.

An important piece of advice – elderly women are the toughest people in Poland. You don’t know hostile until you’ve come between a basket-wielding Babcia and the blessing table with only moments to spare before the blessing begins. Matthew’s tender ribs are proof that these ladies will use elbows to get there in time. They survived Communism so let’s just admit they’re tougher than us.

Add all of this to the depth that Easter already brings and you’ll find an appreciation for tradition. It’s symbolism enriches life or at least layers on some more humour.


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