A Polish Easter

Like other years before, this Easter was spent in Warsaw with the family doing typically Polish Easter things. Here’s an idea of what that involves for a family using the ‘Catholic-Lite’ version of the software.

Good Friday – Not a Bank Holiday & nothing much happens. Good day to buy all those DIY widgets you need because everywhere is closed for the next three days.

Saturday –

The flock gather – in our case through Warsaw New Town Square on the way to the brick tower in the background. Not the sexy white place as that’s inhabited mostly by strange nuns with tall hats who are good at sitting very still for very long periods of time.

The Easter baskets are placed on the table inside the church and we all wait for the duty vicar to come along and bless them. The blessing involves a passage straight from the bible followed by the dipping of a brush into a bowl of holy water and then splashing the water over the baskets (and anyone standing too close). After the splashing there’s usually a more off the cuff chat from the vicar that includes adverts like “come to church more often” or “we need a new roof”.

Before you leave the church you pick up your own bottle of holy water so you can splash it around the house, cat, everything, when you get home. This annoys the cat but does protect him from werewolves and other demons. A common problem in our part of Warsaw.

After more eating back at the in-law’s place you embark on a walking tour of the nearby churches. In our case this takes in the whole of the Old & New Towns. You do this partly to escape from even more eating and partly to check out the various ‘installations’ that have been erected.

There are queues outside every church, the biggest outside the Cathedral where, as usual, TVP are setting up lights and cameras presumably to film an Easter service later in the day. As usual, even with a holy queue, you have to fight off people trying to push in and separate you from your family. Having done that, they then spend the rest of the queue shoving you in the back. Not very Christian, methinks.

The most fun is playing ‘secret pictures’ while walking from one place to another.

The strangest thing is the way bald monks enjoy lighting small bonfires outside the churches. I have yet to work out what this is all about?!

After the walking tour you get to eat some more and then eventually to go home and come back the next day.

Easter Sunday –

Sunday starts badly because you need to wear a suit and tie. When you get to the in-law’s the day starts with the traditional sharing of egg, bread & sausage that were in the basket the previous day and therefore form a sort of holy breakfast appetiser. Along with the snacks go a lot of good wishes and family-hug type activities. This then leads into a full blown meal, of course. After the meal you get to go to church again but this time for a proper service and this time to the ‘Armed Forces’ church on Długa (opposite the uprising monument). The church is busy, additionally so thanks to the number of babies being baptised. It’s hard to concentrate with so many flash photographs being taken. I swear the baby in front of me, cute though it was, didn’t go 15 seconds of the entire service without being blinded by the over enthusiastic friends and family charged with recording the incident for prosperity. No wonder it cried the entire time, I’d have done the same.

The church has some interesting features:

Military imagery such as holy warriors on the ceiling above the altar….

…and an array of medals on the wall behind the altar

My favourite is the window that was made by Poland’s only Rastafarian stained glass craftsman and depicts Bob Marley in a biblical scene. You’d need to go see it to prove that I’m right!

The organ, whilst not remotely funny, is a great example of how much time effort and money can be spent in the name of God. Top marks to the organist for giving us Handel’s Messiah on the way out.

On the walk back home for yet more food we pass behind the law courts and see my favourite architectural ladies. Amazing that they are pretty much completely hidden from view for 99% of the people checking out this building. For a sense of scale, these are perhaps 4-5m tall.

Easter Monday – that’s today. It is a bank holiday. For us a fairly relaxed day, walk in the park, write a blog post…..


18 thoughts on “A Polish Easter

  1. First Easter I was here I went to church with Paula’s family in Belchatow. Next three Easters we’ve gone up to Belchatow but just stayed at their place while they went out to church. This Easter we stayed at our place since we had to work Friday and Monday – no point in driving three hours up on a Saturday and back down again on a Sunday just to eat a couple of eggs.

    The biggest things I miss about the US version of Easter is the Cadbury Creme Eggs and my mom’s egg salad sandwiches, both of which are to die for.

  2. Having not grown up with many traditions for Easter, I’ve always been fascinated by the elaborateness of the [Polish and Ukrainian] Catholic traditions. My SIL is part Polish/Ukrainian/English who grew up in Canada and had tried to bring some of her family foods into the weekend, but decided a long time ago that it was easier if we all just eat a normal meal together.

  3. For me Easter Sunday also starts badly, not because I have to wear a suit and tie but because I’m the only one in the family (over here) who has any religion or faith. There is no joy at the celebration of the victory of life over death, of despair over hope and of love over hatred.

    There’s an interesting comment in the guardian today http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/apr/04/bookcase-debate-new-atheists-religion and a couple of interesting links from one of which http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/04/john-micklethwait-adrian-wooldridge-review I shall steal a quote

    “Eagleton attacks their shared poverty when it comes to understanding Christian theology. Dawkins “falsely considers that Christianity offers a rival view of the universe to science”. Hitchens makes “the same crass error … Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything … It’s rather like saying that thanks to the electric toaster we can forget about Chekhov.”

    But on a lighter note here’s a bit of gospel to brighten anyone’s day

  4. I want some of Brad’s Mom’s egg salad! I’m still suffering from not being able to buy a decent egg mayo sandwich in Poland. Not to mention a bacon buttie!

    Ad – the second vid comes out as an embedded vid, the first as a link. I think the post I have left in place covers everything?! By the way, do you HAVE a suit and tie? ;)

  5. I’ve heard Karl Pilkington mention bacon butties when he worked with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on XFM but I think I prefer BLTs – bacon and butter would probably taste great but leave me feeling VERY guilty. I’ve never tried one but it’s on my list for the next time I’m in the UK.

  6. A BLT is just so very NOT a bacon buttie. A BLT is like the Paris Hilton version of a bacon buttie – i.e naff naff naff.

    Needs to be a soft bread roll, lots of good bacon, not overcooked a little butter and some ketchup. Very simple, very tasty.

    Sausage butties come close but they’re not quite as good as the bacon version.

    I miss pork pies and scotch eggs as well today.

    Still, no matter, we’re going to the UK in June so not long to wait! ;)

  7. I have NEVER thought of lettuce and tomatoes as naff or posh! I guess it depends on your upbringing and perspective. :)

    So I dunno about bacon butties but I *do* miss pasties (doesn’t matter whats in them, they’re all good), Marmite (Vegemite is crap (take that, Ozzers!)), Cadbury creme eggs (Cadbury anything, actually), British beer ((ales) though you can get some fairly popular brews at Alma) and Red Leicester cheese. Also British biscuits. Also being able to get Red Stripe which obviously isn’t British but you can get it in England at least. Oh and crumpets which I know is not a food the cool kids like but damn they are tasty, especially with butter or a very thin slice of mature Cheddar. Oh and also, all British cheeses. I really dislike all the really bland Dutch/Swiss cheese and the gooey French cheeses we have here but love that we can get various imported cheddars in Alma.

    I’ve *never* had a scotch egg. Saw one in The Office but I still don’t know about it. I guess that’s on my list of things to try, along with a full english breakfast …though having BEANS for breakfast is well and truly foreign.

    Everything else aside, I am happy can buy Twinings tea here.

  8. Brad, Red Leicester is available here in Warsaw, pretty good taste as well. Cheddar also and sometimes Wensleydale.

    Scotch egg – you don’t know what you’re missing. Needs to be a good one though, there’s a lot of ‘snack’ versions available that just aren’t up to it.

    Agree about pasties, assuming you mean Cornish pasties?

    Full English is unbeatable. I never have the beans though as I agree, beans for breakfast is just not on but all the rest though is a must.

    Ian – HP occasionally yes but mostly ketchup.

    Brad – and mushy peas!

  9. Ian: I have a reason to visit Warwaw now. Seriously, where does one buy Red Leicester and is it “almost always” available?

    Also: Cornish pasties, yes.

    I’ve never had mushy peas but the non-mushed kind are tasty so I assume the same can be said when they are mushed. Another thing to try next time I’m in the UK.

  10. Brad, the mushy peas are not the same as regular peas–different type of pea. I love mushy peas. Do you eat blood sausage? I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. The beans are bland–Heinz, but made differently. I agree on the tomato and lettuce–they are must-haves on BLTs.

  11. I’m not a huge fan of blood sausage but I can eat it. It depends a lot on who has made it because there are quite a few different ways and they can really affect the end result/taste. Best eaten, regardless, with a strong mustard.

    I’m still waiting to hear where I can buy Red Leicester btw!

  12. Red Leicester is available at Bomi in the Kliff Centre on Okapowa (opposite the Jewish cemetary). Can’t say whether it’s ‘always’ there but it’s not rare. Probably also available at Alma on the other side of the river at Promenada Centre. Perhaps also at Piotr & Pawel near to Ikea in Targowek. If you look for the Cheddar it will be in the same place.

    Mushy peas as has been said are not like peas really but they are delicious and I find best with a decent amount of vinegar, salt and pepper.

    Blood sausage – are you referring to kaszanka or to the black pudding you might get with English breakfast?

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