Easter Traditions

Easter Traditions

Easter is coming soon - in the Polish tradition, as in the whole Christian world, a very important holiday. In today's hectic everyday life, do we still remember how this holiday was celebrated in the past, what traditions are associated with it?

For example, court traditions include the funeral of Żur and herring. The herring was hung on a branch to symbolize the end of fasting and the victory of meat dishes over fasting ones. Easter in the folk version was much more interesting, because it was strongly associated with ancient customs and pagan rituals. Among the relics of old beliefs are Easter eggs. The egg is an ancient symbol of life, and in Slavic beliefs red Easter eggs were believed to have magical powers and to help the creator in matters of the heart. In eastern Poland there was also a custom of giving Easter eggs to the priest on Good Friday. Guillaume de Beauplan, a military engineer, architect and prominent cartographer who lived in Poland during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, described this custom. He claimed that a priest collected 5000 eggs in just two hours. When thanking young maidens, he kissed them and gave older "ladies" his hand to kiss.


An interesting tradition, nowadays known and celebrated in few places, is the so-called drumming. One of the places where this tradition is still cultivated is Janowiec on Vistula river in Lublin province. This custom is a symbolic announcement of Jesus' resurrection. It takes place at night between Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. Local residents, including many young people, gather at a certain time in the cemetery, where the announcement of the resurrection begins by banging on a huge drum. The procession begins at the cemetery to first notify the souls of the departed ancestors and the old drummers, and then the participants walk with the instrument from house to house, where one by one they "rumble". In gratitude, the hosts bring out refreshments consisting of small snacks, cakes and alcoholic beverages. The party lasts until morning, so that during the resurrection mass the last drumming is done, announcing the miracle of resurrection to everyone.

What about culinary traditions? The prelude to the Easter feast was the Lent before the feast. Initially fasting was strictly observed even at the royal court. With time it was not so strictly observed among the rich and did not last long, while in poor peasants' houses it was observed much more scrupulously - mainly for economic, but not religious reasons. They ate sour soup, cabbage, herring and groats with oil at most. Mazurians were famous for their fierce fasting. It was said that a Mazurian would rather kill a man than break the fast. They did not even eat butter and milk, which are rather commonly regarded as fasting foods. Interestingly, alcoholic beverages did not interfere with fasting.

Culinary preparations for the feast on Easter Sunday lasted for the whole week. On the feast table, in addition to the holy sacrament, reigned the home-made sausages and meats and a variety of sweet delicacies. One of the most interesting delicacies was a kind of Easter dessert - pascha. This dish should be prepared the day before and left in the fridge overnight, wrapped in gauze on a strainer.

INGREDIENTS for 10 servings:

  • 1 kg triple-milled cottage cheese
  • 250 g butter
  • 1 glass of powdered sugar
  • 1 package of vanilla sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 50 g fried orange peel
  • 50 g walnuts (optionally almonds)
  • 50 g dried figs or apricots
  • 100 g raisins

Rychter Janowska


Take the butter, eggs and cheese out of the fridge beforehand to warm up. Beat soft butter with powdered sugar, vanilla sugar and lemon zest until fluffy. Whisking patiently all the time, add one yolk at a time.

Add ground cottage cheese and mix until smooth. Add fried orange peel, chopped nuts or almonds and chopped figs or apricots and raisins.

Set a large sieve (at least 20 cm in diameter) over a bowl. Line the sieve with double-folded gauze. Put the cheese mixture into it, wrap the protruding edges of the gauze on top. Cover with a plate and weigh it down.

Place in the refrigerator overnight. Put the streusel on a plate or platter, remove the gauze and decorate. You can decorate as you like, using products from the mass as nuts or oranges.

Merry Christmas and enjoy!

Author of the text: Ewelina Więcek, archaeologist, culinary historian. In her everyday work she is a curator in Archaeological Research Department of Warsaw Museum.

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