Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Feast Days and Fast Days

Having just finished Easter I thought I'd describe to you a few of the traditions for the big festivals here and how they help build a bigger sense of anticipation. Before any festival there is of course a fair bit of cleaning to be done - spring cleaning if you will for Easter. This is then followed by decorations.
Easter decorations usually consist of painted eggs, yellow tulips (daffodils are relatively uncommon here) and also with sprigs of "Bazie" buds as shown below. I've not quite figured out what this is yet as people don't associate it with a tree - it is a pleasant smelling Easter decoration rather than something which you go and collect.
Another key preparation is baking - as with all festivals here people bake a great variety of cakes. In general Polish cakes are somewhat denser than British ones - often very sweet with lots of cream. Agi made a cake called "Mazurek" which consisted of a shortbread type base covered in dried fruit and chocolate whilst I introduced my Polish family to the joy of hot cross buns.
Good Friday is a fast day - you are allowed to eat but there is no chocolate or sweets, alcohol or meat. Fish is quite traditional on these days although we had potato pancakes with mushroom sauce (placki ziemnaczane z sosem grzybowym). Good Friday is meant to be a very solemn and mournful day which makes Polish students a little suspicious of the English name for it!On Easter Saturday the most important tradition is taking a small basket of food, for Sunday's breakfast, to church to be blessed. The baskets traditionally contain some bread, salt, pepper, a hard boiled egg, some sausage and often a sugar lamb. Ours was a little unusual as instead of bread we had a small hot cross bun and also some chocolate rabbits.
This is then taken to church where the priest spoke a little about the last supper, prayed and then sprinkled both the baskets and the congregation with holy water. The basket then waits for Sunday morning breakfast.Sunday itself is a fairly happy day with lots of food. Rather than the big roast dinner as there would be in England there is more of a buffet style meal. It usually starts with soup, Żurek (or Biały Barszcz) being a traditional Easter soup and containing hard-boiled Eggs and bits of sausage. There could also be Flaki (shown below), which is essentially a peppery tripe soup (one of my favourites) or Rosół, a Polish chicken soup. There is then usually some cooked meat to go with a lot of slices of cold meat. All of this is served along with some salad, bread, horseradish and pickled gherkins. It is a really big meal and people tend to sit at the table for a few hours helping themselves to the various bits and then following it all up with the various cakes they baked earlier in the week.


Pablo said...

That's really interesting Sam, Cheers.