Easter – the most important time of the year for Catholic Poles is betokened by Palm Sunday when Poland, along with the rest of Catholic world, commemorates the day Jesus Christ rode on a donkey into the city of Jerusalem as the expectant folk tossed palm leaves before him.
“One can truly rediscover oneself in the Palm Sunday events,” father Marek Chrzanowski of the Orionist Priests’ Congregation told Polish Radio, adding that this day reminds people of the changeability of human nature.
In Poland, hundreds of thousands of families went this morning to their churches to have their Easter palms blessed. An Easter palm is a handmade bundle of reeds, willow twigs, herbs dried and artificial flowers, juniper and boxwood sprigs. The components are often coloured.
Three main types of Easter palms are made in Poland. The Vilnius palm tree consists of various kinds of weed and small, dried flowers tightly wrapped around a stick to form a roll. With length not exceeding 70 cm, they are most often spotted in large cities.
The Kurpie Easter palm is assembled from hand made blotting paper flowers attached to a hazelwood or spruce stick covered with blueberry, juniper and boxwood twigs. These Easter palms are up to 10 meters long.
Meanwhile, southern Poland is notorious for designing a dozen meters tall Easter palms made of willow, hazelwood and wicker rods tied with twine or straps. Capped with artificial colourful flowers, catkins, boxwood, juniper and yew, adorned with ribbons, these palms are a real sight to behold.
Beside designing and blessing palms, Palm Sunday enlivens other traditions such as swallowing a catkin in order to immunise oneself against headache and throat infections. Palms were also used to pet farm animals to encourage prosperity. Palm Sunday is also a time of long processions that have been present in Catholic culture for many centuries. A tradition that survived extinction and now reemerges in some parts of Poland is the adoration of a figure of Jesus mounted on a donkey.
Meanwhile in Jerusalem, a solemn holy mass was celebrated in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher where pilgrims from all over the world gathered, including numerous groups from Poland.