A Gathering in the Main Square
I love Easter in Poland. For my Polish-American family, it is a celebration of spring, new life, with the festivities, the food, the decorations, the time off to spend with our family. I can’t wait!
One thing I especially miss (of many things, due to the pandemic), is the annual Easter Festival in my small town in Poland. The Easter Festival usually takes place on Palm Sunday in the Main Square. People gather in the Main Square, many straight from Palm Sunday Mass, to discuss their Easter preparations with friends and neighbors and browse the many stalls offering various delicacies for the Easter table and Easter basket, as well as local handicrafts to decorate the home.
I must admit that I love running into people I know or used to teach at the Easter Festival. Walking around the Square, giving and receiving Dzień dobry’s, gentlemen giving me a nod and tipping their hats, chatting with stall sellers who remember me from years past, comparing purchases with friends I run into, and sampling some of the tasty treats available to buy, it’s all a pleasure. I don’t know, but it makes me feel integrated into and accepted by this community which I have chosen for my home. I miss it.
The Polish Easter Festival in our small town is the place where you can stock up on all the meats and cheeses, eggs and cream, and various cakes you need for Easter. The cheesecake, decorated Mazurek-style, that I buy every year, never makes it to Easter. We eat it up the very same day – a prelude to good things to come.
The Fairest of Them All
One thing everyone (and by everyone I mean me) looks forward to is the Palm Contest. There are different categories and age groups, I believe constructed to give out as many prizes as possible. I love how local teens dress in Polish National Costume to present the palms for judging. Many of those palms are large and seemingly heavy. I had always wondered how people got their palms to the Main Square until I spotted this car with palms strapped to the roof rack. What a great idea!
A Polish Easter Festival Bake-Off
Another highlight of the Polish Easter Festival is the Bake-Off. I spend a lot of time perusing the confections offered for judging and collecting ideas for future cakes. I spend so much time that at the last Easter Festival I was asked to be a judge on the Bake-Off Commission. These Mazurek cakes below are so beautiful and certainly tasted divine. How could I choose among them? I was worried that I could be called out as disloyal by entrants from my village if I didn’t vote for them or biased by the other judges if I chose my village’s cakes. I think that I think too much. Regardless, look at these gorgeous Mazurek cakes.
Everyone who knows me, knows I love a good parade, especially parades that start with brass marching bands, Orkiestra Dęta in Polish. Although the Polish Easter Festival begins early in the morning, the official “opening” takes place when the brass band leads a march from the church after mass to the Main Square, and the mayor officially opens the Festival for the day. I love it!
This is our second pandemic Easter, so once again no Polish Easter Festival. I will still buy that ham and those sausages. A cheesecake and a babka will still be bought as well. I would even buy some decorations, but I have no more room on my Easter egg tree. One thing I won’t do though is see those smiling faces, give those friendly greetings, gather strength from the comradery of belonging. Fingers crossed for the end of the pandemic, and most importantly (much more important than longing for an Easter Festival) for the health of our world, our friends and family, our community. Fingers crossed for next Easter.
I was so inspired after my first Polish Easter Festival that I went home and made a Caramel Mazurek which has now become a staple of my family’s Polish Easter celebration.
Finally, here’s a closer look at all those wonderful Mazurek cakes. Enjoy and if you celebrate, I wish you a joyful Easter. Wesołych Świąt!