Easter at the foresters. How was the Resurrection of the Lord celebrated in the past by Poles associated with forests?

Poland is a country extremely rich in Easter traditions. They vary depending on the region, but in the vast majority they always have a joyful, solemn character. Foresters constituted a special group, as closeness to nature was extremely important to them due to the nature of Easter heralding its rebirth. Foresters, including those from the past, have always lived in harmony with nature, adapting to its rhythm and respecting its rights, so it is no wonder that they also spent Easter in its surroundings.

Just like at Christmas, meetings of the Forester’s Family were organized at Easter. From the fragments of the forestry press of the interwar period, we will learn, among others, about meetings during which bigos and peas with cabbage were eaten prepared on an open fire.

On Ash Wednesday, willow, raspberry or currant twigs were plucked and placed in water to bloom on Palm Sunday. In some regions, maidens danced in the evening, and young married women and men had to “buy in” with alcohol and snacks if they wanted to join in. The branches picked earlier were formed into bouquets, decorated with ribbons, which were blessed on Palm Sunday in the church. The “palm tree” obtained in this way was supposed to acquire miraculous properties. On Great Friday, a cow after calving and all cattle were censed with twig lightly set on fire. In turn, a palm tree placed in the window was supposed to protect against lightning strikes. Unfortunately, just like today, the desire to obtain green plants for Christmas decorations often ended in devastation of the undergrowth, mainly due to the illegal harvesting of blueberries.

On Great Friday, the tomb of Christ appeared in churches. Firemen, policemen and foresters were usually on duty at the grave. Twigs were blessed then, which were supposed to protect against fire. Practices during the Days of the Cross are also associated with forests. Then fields and forests are blessed, and the faithful visit chapels and roadside statues. The celebration of Easter itself was similar to today’s. The most important were the resurrection and ceremonial breakfast, and on the second day water was poured over oneself, which is said to have exceptional power on Easter: it protected maidens from spinsterhood and cleansed animals from diseases. Keep in mind that Easter, like Christmas, was traditionally a hunting-free time.

We can read about the customs of the foresters themselves in their memoirs and journals. Usually, they were identical with the tradition of the regions from which the employee of the State Forests came from. Foresters were a socially mobile group – after graduation they were assigned to individual forest districts – and in the interwar period they were certainly a group that was a transmission belt of culture and tradition between individual regions.

Much more is known about the habits of forest workers. Ethnographers in the twentieth century described old rural customs wanting to preserve them from oblivion. Thanks to their efforts, you can learn a lot about the life and celebration of Easter by the villagers.

As an example, the community of Lasowiak, in which rememberance the State Forests are involved, can be cited. This is an ethnographic group inhabiting mainly the Tarnobrzeg Plain and the Kolbuszów Plateau. Traces of the forest past remain in the names: Rudna Wielka, Dymarka, Huta, Łazy, Pożogi, Podożarze or Palenie. In total, over 200 names can be read in the Forest today, which have their origins in the burning economy and forest exploitation conducted here. This population, as the name suggests, lived mainly by forest management.

The Lasowiaks dealt with obtaining wood, hunting, hunting, bee-keeping, smelting bog ore, tar and slime, and burning charcoal. They specialized in cooperage, carpentry, carpentry and wheelwrighting. There are quite a few records of how these “forest people” celebrated Easter.

In the records of ethnographers we read, among others: “On the morning of Resurrection Sunday, Lasowiaks, settled on the lower San River, lit old axle boxes with grease for carts, which, exposed to the field, were supposed to protect horses grazing at night against evil forces. Another Easter custom was the gathering and walking from house to house of festively dressed younger farmers and farmhands, who cheerfully and powerfully performed the hallelujah on the morning of Easter Sunday, for which they were rewarded with a saint. Songs were sung during the meetings, among others “Rejoice Queen of Angels”.

The joyful nature of Easter Sunday was reflected in numerous folk dances and lively frolics. In the vicinity of Krosno, boys played devyl, dividing into the devil’s side and the God’s side to fight a battle. The winner, usually from God’s side, amid shouts of joy, mounted the defeated opponent like a donkey, which symbolized Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. They also sang on the occasion of processions of maidens or Śmingus pouring. One of the practices of Easter Monday was walking around the villages of drabs or śmigurts, girded with straw and wearing straw hats. When they walked in pairs, one dressed up as a broad, the other – as a coot. At home, they preached speeches and wishes in verse, for which they were given eggs and poured with water.

The workers working in the forest are a perfect example of Easter folk rituals. This holiday has its origins in the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature, which have been assimilated by the liturgical calendar. This is how Easter traditions were created – a mixture of Slavic superstitions and customs with the feast of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Beautiful, centuries-old traditions deserve to be preserved and cared for, just like the traditions of Lasowiaks, which are preserved by the State Forests.

In the ethnographic park of the Museum of Folk Culture in Kolbuszowa, a forest sector specific to this region is being created, illustrating the heritage of this ethnic group. The Kolbuszowa open-air museum has already gathered buildings such as a stable, a drying room for undergrowth, a barn, a granary and a drying room – a seed hulling plant, as well as a sawmill for sawing wood. A wooden forester’s lodge from Zerwanka (Leżajsk Forest Inspectorate) was also brought and put together.


Source: State Forests

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