Kwiecień April is the time when the first kwiaty flowers begin to bloom in Poland – hence the name. But in old Polish it was also called – łżekwiat or łudzikwiat loosely translated as ‘deceiving flower’ or ‘alluring flower’. It’s reference to the fact that flowers allured and deceived people into thinking that winter was completely over. In reality, longer days full of sunshine and warmth can easily give way to cold and frosty conditions, especially at night. The common saying: Kwiecień plecień bo przeplata, trochę zimy trochę lata – ne’er cast a clout till May be out still holds true.
April is a kapryśny capricious, oszukujący deceiving, łudzący alluring month; it’s the time of the frivolous and the sacred.
It starts with Prima Aprilis April Fool’s Day celebrated in Poland since the 16th century. On this day playing jokes, making fun of friends and family, and elaborate hoaxes are the order of the day – it’s the day when opowiadano zmyślone historie made up stories were told, robiono różne dowcipy practical jokes were made , naigrywano się z naiwnych fun was made out of naive people , wprowadzano innych w błąd people were deliberately misled. It’s common for the media to participate in the fun.
Among the practical jokes, the most popular are:
Wsypanie soli zamiast cukru do cukierniczki putting salt instead of sugar into a sugar bowl
Wyjmowanie baterii w pilota taking the batteries out of the remote control
Przestawianie wszystkich zegarków w domu o godzinę wcześniej changing all the clocks and watches to be an hour early
For that reason individual people and the governments avoided dealing with any serious matters or signing important documents on that day. That included changing the date of the anti-Turkish alliance treaty from 1st April 1693 to 31st March.
But in the spirit of extremes, so characteristic of April, it is also a time of serious reflection and prayer because Easter usually falls in April. For thousands of Poles it’s the time of atonement, reflection and prayer. Because of it’s profound symbolism – the suffering and apparent defeat and death of Christ on Good Friday, and the joy of resurrection on Sunday – Easter carried a particular significance for Poles throughout history, especially during dark years of the Partitions, Nazi Germany occupation during the World War II and the post war communist Soviet occupation. The belief that crushing defeat is not the end, that there is hope, and there will be a victory in the fight for independence, was very strong. Observing Polish customs and traditions remained a powerful symbol of resistance.
Władysław Skoczylas Pieta, woodcut 1915
Wielkanoc Easter (literally Great Night) is the most important Christian holiday and in Poland it has a rich tradition and a huge cultural significance.
The Sunday before Easter is called Niedziela Palmowa Palm Sunday, and you can see those attending church services carrying colourful palms to be blessed by the priest. The tradition goes back to medieval times, and in many parts of Poland there are competitions for the tallest or the most beautiful palm.
The week proceeding Easter is called Wielki Tydzień Holy Week. Celebrations start on Wielki Czwartek Maundy Thursday, continue on Wielki Piątek Good Friday onto Wielka Sobota Holy Saturday and culminate on Wielka Niedziela or Wielkanoc Easter. Each day has a different emphasis and tells a different part of the Easter story – of sacrifice, suffering, death and the resurrection of Christ.
Wielki Czwartek Maundy Thursday is linked to the Last Supper and establishing the Eucharist.
Wielki Piątek Good Friday is when the church bells are muffled, the altar is covered and there is no Mass. Since the Middle Ages, every church in Poland has had a symbolic Christ’s tomb created and thousands of Poles observe the tradition of visiting the tombs to pray. Under the communist regime, many churches in Poland were particularly known for having tombs decorated to convey a strong anticommunist message. After the collapse of communism in Poland the tradition remained, albeit with messages more relevant to current important issues.
Wielka Sobota Holy Saturday is when koszyki wielkanocne Easter baskets are brought to church for poświecenie pokarmów food blessing – the items in the baskets will be eaten for śniadanie wielkanocne the Easter breakfast. You can read more about this tradition here
Since the main Easter Sunday celebrations start before dawn when it’s still quite cold, śniadanie wielkanocne Easter breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There is a rich tradition of what food is prepared and eaten and what customs are observed.
On Easter Monday Poles enjoy spending time with their families and friends. Frivolity returns yet again in the form of śmingus dyngus – the tradition of pouring water over people (usually boys pouring water over girls).
Polish tutor tips:
Do you know these words and their English translations?
These are some ‘recipes’ for practical jokes. Do you know what is being suggested?
- Robak w cukierniczce – robak zrobiony z rodzynka, przekrojonego na pół i zrolowanego
- Jajecznica z jajek na twardo – gotujemy wszystkie jajka z opakowania na twardo i wkładamy z powrotem do opakowania i do lodówki. Prosimy kogoś z rodziny o zrobienie jajecznicy.
- Wyciągniecie wtyczki z gniazdka, ale tak żeby wyglądała iż cały czas jest włączona