Oscypek smoked mountain cheese on sale in the Easter market
Kraków Easter Market
However, don’t be put off visiting the city as the superb Easter market on the main square certainly rivals the Christmas one, the weather may turn distinctly spring-like and warm, and the sensation of having emerged from the chill of winter just has to celebrated. If you are a sucker for decorating your house for Christmas, you will absolutely love trawling the stalls for Easter trinkets, bunnies, pussy willows and tulips to usher in the spirit of spring.
Easter Market goodies
In terms of the traditional meaning of the festival, it kicks off with Palm Sunday and you will witness the locals purchasing elaborate hand woven palms made from dried flowers and plants. They are taken to church to be blessed then taken home to be put up as decorations.
Good Friday involves a visit to a church and fasting which involves only two meals and absolutely no meat.
On Easter Saturday you will witness everyone – man, woman, child – strolling to church carrying a traditional woven basket. In it there will be bread, eggs, ham, sausages, cake, salt and a piece of horseradish to have them blessed by the priest. Each of these have symbolic meaning. Bread is the body of Christ, eggs and meat symbolise new life, salt chases away the bad spirits, cake is for the skills to face the coming year and horseradish is for physical strength. You might even see children eagerly carrying a sachet of cat food to be blessed in their little baskets so that the family pet can join in the Easter festivities. On a more sombre note, a visit to a church or chapel will reveal the “Grave of Jesus” which is often a life sized Christ lying dead amongst flowers and candles.
Painted eggs feature prominently and their significance goes back to pagan times.
Easter Sunday is a family affair and the pinnacle of the “Great Week” build up. Families feast on the foods from the Easter baskets blessed the previous day. In addition żurek (fermented rye soup) and mazurek (decorative pie) are consumed. Painted eggs also once again feature and the table will be decorated with a ram made of dough which symbolises the resurrection of Christ.
Easter Monday is a public holiday in Poland so once again, travellers take note. However, the Easter celebrations take on a much more joyous air. It is the day of “smingus-dyngus” which involves drenching each other with water – usually by buckets or water pistols. Be warned – tourists are not exempt from drenching! Krakow is a good location though to be in for Easter Monday because it hosts the Emaus fair. For this, make your way to Zwierzyniec to the convent of St. Norbert's Premonstratensian Order, more commonly known as the Norbertine Monastery. Located on ul. Kościuszki 88, Salwator, a fair is located here with stalls selling clay bells (to guard against evil spirits), model birds (to represent souls) and a pile of tat for kids.
Yet again, being in Krakow is a bonus on Easter Tuesday. The traditions on this day move to the Podgórze area of the city to the Krakus Mound and the nearby St. Benedicts church on top of Lasota hill for the Rekawka Festival. This is centuries old, and is rooted in the pagan tradition of honouring the dead. It has been resurrected as a medieval festival with a bonfire, stalls, fun and games all round. The actual name Rekawka (Sleeve Festival) comes from the legend that apparently noblemen and peasants filled up their sleeves with soil and dumped it onto this site. This built up over time to create an artificial mountain to dominate the landscape – this is now the present day Krakus Mound. This is definitely worth a visit since due to its dominant position on this hill, the view from the top offers a great panorama over the city.