Second Day of the Easter Triduum: Good Friday

Good Friday is the second day of the Easter Triduum, followed right after Holy Thursday. For Catholics around the world, it means fasting, even if the requirements are different for different countries. For example, in America Catholics ages 14 and up must abstain from meat and ages 18-59 must fast by eating only one full meal and two half meals that can not be greater than the full meal when put together. In addition only water and milk, and no other drinks may be consumed. On the other hand, here in Poland, there still is fasting and abstaining, but unlike in America everyone who is able to must fast if they are over the age of 18. Of course there are some exceptions to the fasting rules in all countries. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, those who are sick, and those who are on a special diet are exempt in both countries, but additionally, in America, if one is traveling then that person is basically exempt. Also the rules are stricter in America than they are here in Poland as to what and how much can and can’t be eaten.

On Good Friday, in the Catholic Church there are usually prayer/Eucharistic services with adoration of the cross and sometimes Stations of the Cross happening to commemorate that Jesus died on the cross on Friday and spent three hours on it, but was later taken down and given a proper burial in a tomb. There are no full on masses from the Holy Thursday Mass to the Easter Vigil Mass to commemorate the suffering and death of Christ and to remember that on the third day He rose again from the dead. Usually Good Friday is a solemn day to remember these things. Tomorrow is Holy Saturday, which means that we will be decorating intricately the Easter eggs and going to bless the Easter baskets that symbolize what we will be eating on Easter Day. Apparently, even non-believers are mesmerized by the tradition of blessing the Easter baskets/food and do it themselves as well.

Here in Poland, all of the food that is eaten on Easter has to be prepared ahead of time, so the friend’s daughter came over with her son again, as well as her mother. We made homemade pierogies, even though the flour that we used made them practically impossible to roll out the dough and to pinch the edges together, and the meat that we used for the filling was also impossible to grind because the machine we had to use is extremely old and the meat was not cooked long enough, which made it even harder to grind. We will find out tomorrow how they turned out when we eat them with the beet soup for dinner.

In addition, the family friend made another walnut cake type dessert. The one she made yesterday overcooked, so it was a little bit browner than it should have been, and she even cried. I, personally think it turned out really well, but she said that when it is baked to the right color it tastes even better, so I’ll see tomorrow how it compares with the first one.

Other than playing with the baby and making the pierogies, today was another laid back and chill day, which I am grateful for. That is all for today, and I will update again tomorrow with how well the decorating of the eggs goes for us, and I may be able to even include a few photos to go along with the post, so stay tuned.


Relaxing First Day of Easter Break

Today was a nice break from my crazy, normal week. This is because it was a relaxing and rather laid back day, which I do not get when I am in my dorm room or during a normal week. Again, for some reason I am writing this after midnight.

Normally during the week I have to wake up at 6:00 or 9:30 in the morning depending on what day of the week it is and I usually don’t/can’t fall asleep until well after midnight, so my body does not get the adequate amount of sleep that it needs. This is even true on the weekends, because my one of my roommates usually wakes up around 9 or I have to wake up at like 8 or so to use the bathroom and as hard as I try to fall back asleep until about 11, I can’t, so I basically do not get enough sleep. During the week, on the nights that I know I have to wake up early the next morning, I try to go to sleep around 10:30 or so, but my roommates are still up and they like to leave the lights on, so I usually can’t fall asleep until at least one of them goes to sleep after midnight.

I told you this because last night I got to sleep in my own room, with no distractions to keep me awake either during the night or in the morning (even though I went to sleep well after midnight – that may have had something to do with it as well) and I slept in until noon. It was really nice. It seems that the later I go to sleep, the faster and easier I am able to fall asleep. In addition, it seems as if writing this blog has begun to help me to fall asleep faster/earlier because I am able to get the thoughts/happenings of my day out of my brain, which allows it to be nearly empty and for me not to have any thoughts circulating around my brain to think about before bed.

Before I woke up, the family friend’s daughter came over with her five-month old son and they stayed for a few hours, so it was nice to hang out with them and play with the baby. Also, the friend’s mom came over and we decided to make this type of dessert, even though I did not help at all with it, unlike when we decided to make mini pierogies for a party the friend’s were hosting the next day.

After they all left, which was around 4:30 or so, the friend had to teach a two-hour English lesson, so I had some time to myself to relax. Later in the evening, the friend’s other daughter came over with her husband because she had to find some documents for the job that she will soon be starting. After they had found the documents, we ate kolacja, which is like the american lunch,but during dinner time. This is because the Polish eat their dinner during our lunchtime. After we finished eating, I had the rest of the evening to myself.

All in all, today was a nice, relaxing day that is a nice respite from my normal day-to-day life of attending classes and doing homework. Today was Holy Thursday, but in the Catholic Church, one is not necessarily required to attend a mass, but it is optional and it is the mass where random people, at least in the parish I attend at home, get their feet washed by the priest to symbolize Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The mass is to symbolize the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples and it is the last mass before the Easter vigil mass that takes place the night before Easter, even though a church can have a prayer service of Good Friday, having a full on mass is not appropriate. Tomorrow is Good Friday, which means fasting and abstaining from meat, which I will explain further in tomorrow’s post and more about the Easter traditions of the Polish culture as Sunday approaches quickly, but today is too late for me to explain it, so I will on either Saturday or Sunday. Good night!

Crazy Start to my Easter Break!

It’s already after 12:30, but I am writing about what happened yesterday, which I do not count as yesterday until I wake up in the morning, so basically for me it is still today.

Plans can change on a whim, so one has to always be ready to make adjustments to best fit the situation. Thus is the case with where and with whom I will be spending my Easter holiday/break with. My original plans included me going to stay with my mom’s cousin’s family in her hometown for the break, but the cousin’s mother-in-law passed away recently and they are still getting over having the funeral yesterday. The mother had been living in a vegetative state for over 17 years, and over the last few years she had lost her senses of sight and hearing, so basically the only thing keeping her alive was the fact that she could breathe alone.

After I had found out that I would not be able to spend the holidays with them, which I was sort of looking forward to and I’m sure my second cousin’s seven-year old daughter was looking forward to it even more, but I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities for me to visit. As soon as I found out, I immediately called the family friends who live in town and who have become like my second family while I am here to ask if I would still be able to spend the holidays with them. They even invited me to come stay the night starting with tonight, so I quickly packed the things I would need for the next five days and headed over. Another reason as to why I called them immediately after is because before they even knew my plans for where I would be spending my Easter, they invited me to spend it with them if I had no one else to spend it with.

On a more positive note, my teacher today decided to give us a lesson in the traditions of the Polish Easter, and surprised us by bringing in a traditional cake type dessert, but less sweet. It was a welcome treat at the last few minutes before we were let out for break because she decided to serve us about ten minutes before the end of class. Next, my history class went like usual, but in my theater class there are usually around 30 people who come, but today we were only a group of 13. This small class size allowed us to finish discussing the play we will be performing and what things we would be using from what movies.

The weather over the last few days has been colder than the rest of my stay in Poland. It was even so cold today that it was basically snowing during a few parts of the day, with one point of the day the snow falling horizontally instead of vertically. Also, last night there was a really bad thunderstorm, which I did not even know was happening.

Other than the change of plans, it should be a well-rested and well-enjoyed holiday break. My family has always celebrated a Polish Easter, so I have no idea what the American Easter traditions are, but as Sunday approaches, I will explain the traditions/customs of the holiday more and you guys can inform me about some of the Easter customs from your home country, whether it be America or Australia. That’s all for today/yesterday, so I’ll update again tomorrow.

Palm Sunday: Tallest Palm Branch Contest

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.

Another Good Day and Easter Preparations

So today turned out to be another good day, even though it was not as eventful as yesterday had been. Since it is Saturday, I got to sleep in a little bit longer than I get to on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then I worked a little bit on my computer and took a shower, with the only bad thing happening being the sink in the bathroom of my dorm room was plugged up so the water took an extremely long time to drain.

Then my family friend’s took me out to dinner (which here is during the time that Americans eat lunch) at a restaurant that their oldest daughter would always go to while she was studying at university (and even though her mom made three meals for her at home and she always had plenty enough food at home, she would still be hungry so she would go out to the restaurant that they took me too). As we were leaving and as we got back to the main square, which the restaurant was like 100 feet from the main square), there was a salsa dancing flash mob going on, so we decided to stay and watch for like five or ten minutes. There were at least 200 people or so participating in the flash mob, but it was cool to see one live, which is kind of ironic in a way for us. Seeing this flash mob is ironic for us because two weeks ago, when I went to this couple’s house to relax from my week, we started out by me showing them this video: Basically it is about the employees of Lot Polish Airlines singing Mama Mia to the 500,000 person to fly on their Dreamliner 787. Then we somehow got into watching different flash mob videos, including the one at Grand Central Station where the people are frozen for five minutes, two dancing ones right here in Kraków, one dancing one in Germany, among a few others. We even stumbled upon a website that stated the top twelve flash mobs of all time.

Another cool thing that happened while I was with them last week was that we got to see part of a fashion show in one of the about four shopping malls in town. This was because we decided to go see a Polish comedy with their friends, and while we were waiting we saw that there was a fashion show going on, so we decided to watch for a bit. It was also interesting in that a famous Polish actress was one of the MC’s of the show and she and the other MC were asking questions about the town and the people who answered correctly got some sort of prize. In addition, as we were leaving after the film, she was taking pictures with people, but we didn’t get a chance to take a picture with her.

Another few good things that happened were that I got officially invited to this couple’s daughter’s wedding and baptism of her child, which I will explain in a later post why this is significant. Also, they were nice enough to buy me five yellow roses, which are beautiful and a white chocolate heart that says “I Love You”, which was nice of them since they have become my second family away from home here in Poland.

Then we went for a walk and talked for a bit, which wasn’t that significant, but it was still a part that made my day all that better. I also had to buy some water, but I accidentally got the wrong kind, but for some reason less of that kind quenches my thirst.

In the main square, and in Poland in general, Easter is a huge holiday since the country is made up of a majority of Catholics. Palm Sunday is tomorrow and here they make very decorative ones that can be anywhere from a few inches to several feet and tomorrow I am going on a trip to a town where there is a contest to see who can make the tallest palm branches and so far there has been one that was over 35 meters high, which is well over 100 feet. I’m excited to see these and will post some pictures tomorrow or Monday. This is completely the opposite of how American Catholics celebrate Palm Sunday, at least in my parish. At my parish, we pick out a palm branch and then during the mass we get them blessed and some families bring them home to save for Ash Wednesday of the next year. Some people are even creative enough to make them into the shape of a cross.

For this trip I have to wake up early and additionally we change out time during the night, so I probably won’t get as much sleep as I would like to, but at least the ride will be about 90 minutes, so I’ll probably sleep a bit during that time.