What every Pol-Am should know about Easter
By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

This micro-encyclopedia can test your knowledge of our Polish Easter heritage, refresh your comprehension of the Polish language and perhaps help fill in the missing peaces. The following list can provide the core of a class or club meeting devoted to Polish Easter traditions. It can also be reproduced in your parish bulletin, club newsletter or any printed program passed out at organized Polonian Easter festivities.

Alleluja: This is the Polish spelling of Alleluia, a term which in Hebrew means “praise Jehovah”. In Polish tradition it is closely associated with Easter, in fact it forms part of the traditional Easter greeting: “Wesołego Alleluja” (see below).

baba, babka: baba, tall, tapered, usually yeast-raised cake; a typical Easter treat.

baranek: Easter lamb; made of cake, butter, sugar, wood, fleece, plaster or plastic and placed in Easter basket and on the Easter table as the main centerpiece,

biały barszcz: tart, white Easter soup containing eggs, sausage, etc.. typical of eastern Poland; similar to

żurek (see last entry)

Boży Grób, Grób Pański: a tableau of Our Lord's Tomb (Holy Sepulcher), usually set up at one of the church’s side altars, surrounded by flowers, ferns and candles and often watched over by rotating honor guards.

bukszpan: boxwood, a small-leafed evergreen used to make Easter palms, decorate Easter baskets and Easter platters and weave garlands strung round the edge of the święconka table

chrzan: horseradish, a pungent root symbolizing the bitter herbs of the Passover and the gall Jesus was given on the cross, is a typical condiment accompanying Easter foods.

ćwikła: beetroot & horseradish relish or salad, a typical Easter go-together with hard-cooked eggs, ham, sausage and other cold meats

dziady śmigustne: Easter trick-or-treaters wearing hats and cloaks made of straw who start their house-to-house rounds on Easter Sunday night.

dyngus: an old rural custom of post-Easter house-to-house masquerading and trick-or-treating with revelers often pulling a rooster cart and drenching stingy householders; also see śmigus-dyngus (below);

Dyngus Day: Easter Monday celebration in Polonia, especially popular in Buffalo and South Bend, but also celebrated by Pol-Ams in Chicago, Detroit and elsewhere.

dzielenie się jajkiem: The sharing of wedges of blessed hard-cook eggs begins the family breakfast or brunch served after Easter morning Mass; this symbolically ends the 40-day Lenten fast (although some Poles start in on the treats right after the Holy Saturday food blessing).

Emaus: An annual Easter Monday church fair held in the Zwierzyniec district of Kraków; named after the locality to which the Resurrected Jesus was seen traveling by two apostles who did not recognize Him.

gaik: An evergreen branch (the word itself means “little grove”), decorated with ribbons and paper flowers carried house to house by young girls extending Easter wishes to householders and receiving eggs and other treats in return; this form of post-Easter rounds was most popular in Śląsk (Silesia).

jajo, jajko: The Polish word for egg, at Eastertime a prominent ritual artifact and food symbolizing new life; just as a chick pecks its way out its egg-shell confinement, so too Jesus broke out of His entombment when He rose from the dead.

kiełbasa: sausage, a typical Polish Easter treat; both the biała (fresh) and wędzona (smoked) varieties are served hot and cold, boiled and baked as well as in soups.

kraszanki = solid-colored Easter eggs; before the era of store-bought dyes, these were made by placing eggs in water in which onion skins, spinach, certain tree barks, beets, etc. had been boiled.

kroszonki: This is not only the dialectic Silesian (Śląsk) pronunciation of kraszanki, but refers to a specific technique in which are eggs dyed a solid dark color such as black, dark navy blue or dark violet, and designs are etched on with a sharp pointed instrument, exposing the lighter-colored undyed shell beneath.

Lany Poniedziałek: Wet Easter Monday when śmigus-dyngus (see below) is practiced mazurek: mazurka, flat Polish Easter cake with a variety of toppings, cut into squares for serving; similar to the American sheet-cake.

Niedziela Palmowa = Palm Sunday; the day “palmy” (see below) are blessed in church; formerly also known as Kwietna Niedziela (Floral Sunday) and Wierzbna Niedziela (Willow Sunday). oklejanki or nalepianki: Easter eggs decorated by having have various plants or colored paper glued on to form geometric or wycinanka-like designs.

palma, palemka = several pussywillow twigs tied together with boxwood or cranberry leaves are the “palms” blessed in church on Palm Sunday; in the Kurpie (Białystok) area poles 10 to 30 feet long are decorated with evergreens, ribbons and crepe-paper flowers; also a colorful rod-shaped bouquet made from dried, often brightly dyed wildflowers, herbs, pussywillows and evergreens

pascha: A rich Easter dessert made of curd cheese and containing raisins and other southern fruits, candied orange ring, nuts, etc.

paschał: This is the large paschal beeswax candle lighted from the sloeberry fire blessed on Holy Saturday. It displays a cross made with five embedded grains of red incense, symbolizing Christ’s five wounds, the current year and the Greek letters Alpha and Omega (beginning and end). It burns near the altar during liturgies celebrated in the Easter season.

pisanki = patterned Easter eggs made by applying designs with a special stylus or pin dipped in molten beeswax and then dying the eggs; to get multicolored eggs the procedure could be repeated a number of times.

pogrzeb śledzia i żuru: After the Holy Saturday food blessing, boys would hold a humorous mock funeral for a pot of meatless żur (ryemeal soup) and a herring bone to signify their distaste for 40 days of such monotonous fare.

Popielec, Środa Popielcowa: Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when the heads of the faithful are sprinkled with ashes to remind them to pray and do penance.

pucheroki: Especially in the Kraków boys with soot-streaked faces wearing pointed paper were traditional Palm Sunday trick-or-treaters in the villages of the Kraków area.

Rezurekcja: Early morning Easter Mass that begins at daybreak with a procession which thrice encircles the church.

sernik: Many people lover cheesecakes all year round, but they are an especially common treat on the Polish Easter table.

szynka - ham, a typical Easter treat; in Polish tradition nearly always served as a sliced, cold meat to be eaten with horseradish, ćwikła and bread.

śmigus-dyngus = Easter Monday custom of boys drenching girls with water

święcone: The hallowfare (Easter food), blessed in church on Holy Saturday and served on Easter morning to end the Lenten fast; the term applies both to the food and the meal which could be translated into English as Easter breakfast, brunch or lunch

święconka: in Poland – the wicker basket in which Easter food is blessed or the custom itself; in Polonia – also an Easter party (dinner-dance) usually held during Easter week.
Wesołego Alleluja: Happy Easter (traditional holiday greeting)
Wesołych Świąt (Wielkanocnych): Happy Easter (a more secular version)
Wielkanoc: Easter; literally: the Great Night; sometimes also known as Wielka Niedziela (Great Sunday)
Wielki Post: Lent (literally: the Great Fast), a 40-day period of fasting, prayer and penance in preparation for Easter
Wielki Tydzień: Holy Week (literally: Great Week); the term “Wielki” is used for all the days including Wielki Piątek (Good Friday). The feminine days of the week are Wielka Środa (Holy Wednesday) and Wielka Sobota (Holy Saturday).

żur, żurek: rye-meal soup; a meatless version of this tart soup was once a dietary mainstay during Lent; on Easter Sunday, a much tastier smoked-meat-based version is served.