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13 Interesting Polish Traditions

Last updated on February 25, 2019

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Polish culture is full of interesting traditions that sometimes might confuse people but I believe it makes our culture rich and fascinating. Let me mention some of them that I find the most interesting and I am curious to hear your opinion about them 🙂

I have included a couple of links to google translator so you can have an idea of how to pronounce some of the words. Just open the link and click on the sound icon to hear it 😉

Polish Wedding Traditions

“Oczepiny”

Pronunciation of oczepiny

In my opinion, this is one of the coolest wedding traditions. It happens at midnight and you basically have two choices: either you go and join the fun and take part in the games or you stay put and still have good fun laughing at others competing.

In general, “Oczepiny” starts at midnight and normally begins with a standard throwing of the bride’s bouquet and then, oh well, anything can happen. The wedding band or DJ normally comes up with some crazy and entertaining games where the wedding guests compete with each other.

Beginning of Oczepiny – throwing of the bride’s bouquet

You might have to do many different things: you might need to collect clothes from other people and wear then, you might need to drink some strange things, dance with people you don’t know etc.

All in all, it’s a lot of fun!

Poprawiny

Pronunciation of poprawiny

Poprawiny is a very interesting Polish wedding tradition and it actually means that you have a second wedding day. So, on the first wedding day you party until early morning hours 5-6am and on the next day you meet again around mid-day to eat and drink again until late evening hours.

The traditions are different, sometimes the bride and the groom only invite the closest friends and family members to Poprawiny and sometimes they will include all of the wedding guests.

Anyway, be prepared and do not be surprised that you have to party two days in a row 🙂

You can read more about wedding traditions and customs in another article that we wrote.

Polish Easter Traditions

Pisanka – Polish Easter Eggs

Pronunciation of pisanka

Here in Poland, Easter is time to create beautiful pieces of art by ornamenting chicken eggs (sometimes goose’s or duck’s might be used as well). As a matter of fact, pisanka derives from the verb pisać, which in modern Polish means to write. However, in old Polish, pisać also meant to draw 🙂

Another interesting fact is that pisanka originated as a pagan tradition, but that was absorbed by Christianity to become the traditional Easter egg. Nowadays, pisanki symbolize the revival of nature and the hope that Christians gain from faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Pisanki is a well-known Polish Easter tradition, and you might have spotted these ornamented eggs before if you’ve been in here during Easter time.

Pisanki are usually hallowed on Easter Saturday (together with the Easter basket), and then on Easter Sunday they are exchanged and shared among the family at the table. Something similar to what is done with Opłatek (Christmas wager) during Christmas time.

There are different types of pisanki, depending on the technique that is used. You can follow the links below to read some extra info about them directly from Wikipedia:

  • Kraszanki – these are made by boiling the egg in a substance derived from plants and other natural products that will change the color of the shell. The color will depend on the type of substance that is used.
  • Drapanki – once the kraszanki are ready, you can scratch the surface of it to remove part of the color and reveal the white of the shell. In this way, you can make some beautiful drawings.
  • Pacenka – these are created by drawing or painting on the egg directly.
  • Naklejanki – besides painting and drawing, you can also ornament the egg with different things, such as petals, scraps of colorful paper or with pieces of cloth. This is what naklejanki are all about.
  • Oklejanki – another type of pisanki, that in this case are decorated with bulrush pith or yarn. These are common in the region of Podlaskie in Poland.

Święconka – Polish Easter Basket

Pronunciation of święconka

Święconka - Polish Easter basket
Święconka – Polish Easter basket | © Ejdzej / WikiCommons

In Poland, during Easter times families still cultivate traditions to go to the church with Easter basket. The idea behind it, is to get a blessing for the food that we bring in the basket.

This tradition is cultivated in many Eastern countries either on Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday. In Poland, we normally do it on Holy Saturday.

The basket consist of food items that have a special significance and families eat the blessed food on breakfast on Sunday morning. On Holy Saturday very often the youngest member of the family goes to the church with the basket.

All of the baskets are placed in the central table where the blessing happens. As I mentioned above, the food is consumed by the family on Easter Sunday. Normally, each family member should get to eat at least a small piece of each food item that was blessed by the priest.

But, not only food is important for Polish people, we cannot forget about the decoration of the basket!

Inside the basket, you will find a beautiful piece of cloth normally made of traditional folk fabric. In addition to that, we also decorate the basket with springs of boxwood and once the food is inside we cover everything with a white linen cloth. This piece of linen cloth is supposed to represent the shroud of Christ.

Content of the Easter basket

Depending on the family, you can find many different items in the basket. These are, however, the most common items to put inside:

  • Ham – symbolizes great joy
  • Cheese – reminds Christians of moderation
  • Eggs and Pisanki – are the symbol of Christ’s resurrection
  • Horseradish – this is to remind about harshness and bitterness of the Passion of Jesus
  • Easter Bread – symbolic of Jesus who is Bread of life
  • Butter – it is very often shaped like a little lamb. It symbolizes the end of Lent and reminds us of a good will of God.
  • Salt – symbolizes prosperity and justice.
  • Sausage – symbolizes the generosity of God.
  • Smoked Bacon – symbolizes the abundance of God’s mercy
  • Candles – symbolizes the light of the world – Jesus
5 Weird Old Polish Traditions

Śmigus-Dyngus / Lany Poniedzialek

Pronunciation of Śmigus-Dyngus

Poland has many Easter traditions but the one I like the most is Śmigus-Dyngus. This is actually the tradition that can be the most surprising among all of the ones that we cultivate.

Making Easter eggs, going to the church, we normally know or at least have heard of. But have you heard of the fact that we actually pour water on each other?

Polish Tradition: Smigus Dyngus

So this is actually the idea of Śmigus-Dyngus. You go and pour water on other people 🙂 Sounds fun right? It is actually a lot of fun especially for children and even better if the weather is nice outside.

The all-day-long water battle starts normally very early in the morning when the smallest children start running with water pistols, bottles or they throw water balloons.

I even remember myself when I was a child that I was waiting with water balloons to throw them from outside the window or I was running around with water bottles 🙂

Poland Christmas traditions

Christmas in Poland is full of traditions that I believe it deserves a post of its own (we’ll write it later on!). I believe though that there are some of them that are more unique than others and this is what I am going to focus on 🙂

Sharing the Opłatek – Christmas wafer

Pronunciation of Opłatek

This Christmas tradition happens normally just before the main supper. The family members exchange wafer and wishes with each other. This was a great moment for my husband to practice his Polish skills with my family haha 🙂

Twelve dishes on the table

As we say, Christmas in Poland is about meeting family and spending time with them but also about food! We eat all time long and that is why we have to fast afterwards to lose extra kilos 😉

The meaning of the number 12 is that it refers to the 12 apostles Jesus had. Polish tradition also says that during Christmas we should serve things like herring in cream and oil, carp (the most popular fish during Christmas), pierogi, borscht, etc!

One thing you need to remember for sure, arrive with an empty stomach.

Poles are really into soups. No surprise here, during winter time they can really warm you up. Check it out this list of Polish soups we've written about!

Leaving an empty seat for an unexpected guest

If you enter a traditional family house for Christmas Eve, you will realize that there is one more chair at the table than the number of guests. The tradition says that if some homeless person appears at your doorstep during Christmas, you should invite him over to for the Christmas supper! We should not leave anyone alone during Christmas!

Other Polish Customs and Traditions

Tlusty Czwartek – Fat Thursday

Pronunciation of Tłusty Czwartek

So, hands up for the ones who like donuts? If you like them, there’s no other option than coming to Poland for the Fat Thursday. We eat donuts all day long 😉 I know that in the UK, for example, there is Pancake Day but here instead we eat donuts.

People celebrate this tradition on the last Thursday before Lent. The tradition is so popular that if you want to get donuts from your favourite bakeries you would need to either pre-book them or stand in a long queue on the day.

In some companies, they order big amounts of pączki so that their employees can celebrate tłusty Czwartek at work. From all Polish traditions in this post, this is my husband’s favorite 🙂

What are the famous Polish companies that you know? We have created a list with 7 of them, check it out!

Andrzejki – St. Andrews Day

Pronunciation of Andrzejki

This Polish tradition is celebrated on the last day before the Christmas Lent. This is the main reason why people eat and drink as much as they can on this day. This is also the last day to have a party.

A very cool part of Andrzejki celebration is predicting the future with wax. The idea is to melt the wax and pour it through a large keyhole into cold water. After the wax cools down you need to see what the symbol looks like and check the meaning of it.

Polish Tradition: Andrzejki

Another tradition for Andrzejki is shoe race. Everyone who participates needs to take off their shoes. The task is to go to the furthest wall by putting one shoe in front of another. The idea is that the first shoe that touches the wall is the person who will get married next.

Another custom that I find really interesting is pinning of the name of your husband/wife. You basically write on a piece of paper as many names of the opposite gender as you can think of. Then a friend of yours need to put a pin in the piece of paper and the name that is the closest to the pin is the name of your future partner.

Pępkowe – Celebrating the birth of a child

Pronunciation of Pępkowe

This is a tradition closely connected with the birth of a child. The day after a baby is born, the father of the child calls his friends in order to celebrate this big day. The idea is, oh well, to celebrate and drink with the closest friends.

In the meantime, the mother and the new-born rest in the hospital. I’m not sure the moms are particular fans of this Polish tradition haha 🙂

Some notable Poles have received the Nobel Prize. From Marie Curie to Lech Wałęsa, check our list with 7 Polish Nobel prize winners

Wszystkich Świętych – All Saints Day

Pronunciation of Wszystkich Świętych

All Saints Day in Poland is a very important tradition when people go to the tombs of their beloved ones who have already died. During this day families gather together, clean the tombs, buy flowers and candles and go to pray at the local cemeteries.

It is a very special day when we remember all the beautiful moments we spent with the ones who are no longer with us.

Polish tradition: All Saints Day

When I was a child I remember that I used to go and buy some extra candles and walk around the cemetery to find the tombs that had no candles on them.

Probably the family members of these people were also no longer among us so I wanted to put at least one candle on these to make sure that in some way we still remember about them.

Drowning of Marzanna

Pronunciation of Marzanna

Marzanna, in general, is the name of a Slavic goddess. Even though the pagan religion has been banned since the 11th century the tradition associated with Marzanna is still alive in some regions of Poland.

When the first day of spring arrives, people make a Marzanna effigy out of straw and decorated with colorful ribbons. The idea is that we make a Marzanna doll, set it on fire and throw it into the water so that the spring comes sooner 😉

Who does not like to watch a good movie? Well, we love it! That's why we've created a list with the 13 greatest Polish movies of all time. Check it out!

Polish traditions are really interesting, aren’t they?

Let us know in the comments below if there is any particular Polish custom or tradition that you find interesting, but we haven’t mentioned in the post 😉

2 Comments

  1. Jane Patterson Jane Patterson June 2, 2019

    Love your posts! My father, who is 98, is from Prszemsyl (spelling?) was in the Polish underground during WWII, ended up in England where he met and married my mother. They moved to the US in 1950, lived outside of Buffalo NY, had 5 children. We grew up with many Polish traditions especially Christmas and Easter. I have an uncle who still lives there and cousins. would love to go someday!

    • Rafael Rafael June 3, 2019

      Hi Jane, we’re glad to hear that you like our posts! I can imagine that the posts about Polish culture bring you good feelings about your Polish roots. That’s one of the reasons why we like writing them :). You should definitely visit Poland someday, it’s an amazing country, we love living here! By the way, what an amazing life story your father has.

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