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.

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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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRti7YgR2u8. 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.