So today I had the privilege of going to a small town in Poland of about a 90 minute drive from Kraków. This town is known for their annual contest to see who can create the tallest palm branch that can stand alone for a minimum of fifeteen minutes.
The event happened in the main square with different groups performing traditional and non-traditional Polish songs and traditional Polish dances. There was a plentiful abundance of vendors there to purchase items ranging from decorated Easter eggs (which the Polish take very seriously to design and create beautiful masterpieces of Easter eggs) to food vendors with quite a few of the food vendors serving a cheese that is only found in Zakopane. Zakopane is a small mountain village where everything used to be local, but now has become more Westernized and commercialized. The cheese is smoked and sometimes grilled immediately before eating. It is called Oscipek. My mom loves the cheese because she is from a different small mountain village close to Zakopane, but I, on the other hand, do not entirely enjoy this cheese. I have no idea why, really, but the taste doesn’t really appeal to me.
At this festival/contest the palm branches range in size from a few meters to the record being over 35 meters in height, which is well over 100 feet. These branches are decorated, and people even create smaller ones that can range from a few inches in height to a foot or so, that are blessed at the Palm Sunday mass.
Quite the opposite of the palm branches created in Poland, the palm branches that my church gives out are more like the leaves and they are also blessed during the mass. Sometimes people creative enough create them into the form of a cross, but a lot of families save these branches until the Sunday before Ash Wednesday of the next year to be used for the ashes.
This is how the palm branch looks in the form of a cross. (images found by doing a google search for “palm branch used on palm Sunday”)
We left for the trip around 7 in the morning and one group got back at 2, while the rest got back at 3 pm. It was cool to see this festival, but I don’t think I will go to it again, because there were just too many people in such a small space for me. This was the 57th anniversary of the festival. In addition, there were a few important people at the festival including a presidential candidate and some important person from the European Union. A few years ago, the president was even able to attend, so the foreign students from the Center were able to take pictures with the Polish President, which would have been an awesome thing to experience. I enjoyed attending the festival, but it was a little too crowded for me.