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Authentic Polish Easter Recipes and the Origin of the Easter Basket

Updated on February 23, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty collects recipes from past generations among ethnic groups, the 13 Original Colonies, the American Civil War & the 19th century.

This is one type of Polish Easter Basket that is used to carry food to church for blessing on Easter Saturday. It has kielbasa, boiled eggs, salt, pepper and bread.
This is one type of Polish Easter Basket that is used to carry food to church for blessing on Easter Saturday. It has kielbasa, boiled eggs, salt, pepper and bread. | Source

Easter: The Biggest Feast Day of the Year in Poland

Some of my friends of Polish descent shared with me that Easter is the biggest feast day or holiday of the religious calendar in Poland. One even told me that it was even bigger than Christmas, because on Easter Sunday, they also celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

Below I've shared recipes for traditional Polish noodles (haluski); a dish with cucumbers, dill, and sour cream (mizeria); and white borscht (zur), as well as some information on Polish Easter traditions and the symbolism of the Polish Easter basket.

I hope you enjoy learning about these wonderful traditions!

Traditional Polish Noodles (Haluski)

Haluski: Fried Cabbage and Noodles
Haluski: Fried Cabbage and Noodles | Source

INGREDIENTS

  • One bag of medium-sized egg noodles, or your own homemade
  • One stick of butter (4 oz)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced fine
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 large head of cabbage, shredded
  • Caraway seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Sauté the raw noodles in melted butter in a hot frying pan until light brown and remove pan from heat.
  • In a pot, place garlic and onions and stir over medium heat; add the shredded cabbage and continue to stir.
  • As the onion and cabbage wilt, add 1 tbsp of caraway seed and salt and pepper; stir.
  • Remove pot from heat and drain cabbage water from the noodles.
  • Pour the cabbage mixture over the noodles in the frying pan and return the pan to medium heat and stir to heat throughout.
  • Add 2 cups sour cream, stir slightly and serve.
  • Serve with a dark bread, such as dark rye or pumpernickel, and butter.

For a nice variation, you can take one pound of Polish sausage, slice it into pieces, and add to the pot with the garlic and onions to heat through before adding the cabbage. This is also delicious. Or, you can cook larger pieces of the sausage separately and serve alongside the cabbage dish.

Cucumbers, Sour Cream & Dill (Mizeria)

A version of Mizeria with green onion
A version of Mizeria with green onion | Source

A good friend in Mid-Michigan taught me how to make this dish, telling me each time that it was Polish. As it turns out, other Polish friends confirmed that fact. I love cucumbers prepared in this way.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 cucumbers sliced thin, peeled, not peeled, or stripe-peeled
  • Salt
  • Black or white pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Lemon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dill

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Wash, then peel and slice 2 or 3 of cucumbers rather thinly. Some cooks leave the peel on about half of the slices, so you can cut the cucumber in half crosswise and peel only one half of it, if you wish.
  • Sprinkle the slices with salt in a bowl and set aside to stand for 10 minutes in order to extract some of the liquid from the vegetable. Some people let the slices sit covered in a bowl overnight and then pour off the water.
  • Add black pepper to taste, if you like pepper. White pepper is sometimes substituted.
    For 2-3 cucumbers, mix 1 cup sour cream with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp of sugar, and a tablespoon of dill.
  • Mix the sour cream mixture with the cucumber slices and store in a cool place 30 minutes to meld flavors and serve.

White Borscht Zur

via Wikimedia Commons; Serving suggestion: Try serving in a bread bowl with some sausage and a hard-boiled egg.
via Wikimedia Commons; Serving suggestion: Try serving in a bread bowl with some sausage and a hard-boiled egg. | Source

This is a Polish recipe based on a sour white borscht (cabbage soup also called tschi). Red borscht is cabbage soup that has beets added to it. This is borscht without beets. In this recipe, if you want a more sour taste, use more Zur-starter mixture in the soup.

INGREDIENTS

  • Boiling water
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Lukewarm water
  • A large glass jar – like a pickle jar – and some cheesecloth or gauze
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 4 potatoes – peeled and cubed in bite-sized cubes
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • For the Zur starter: In a large bowl, scald the whole wheat flour with the boiling water by pouring in a bit at a time and stirring until you have a THIN dough. Do not let it become very thick.
  • Set the dough aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Add 3.5 cups (28 ounces) of lukewarm water into the dough and then add the top crust from a whole wheat bread slice into it.
  • Take the whole bowl and pour its contents into a glass jar. Cover and tie the jar top with cheesecloth or gauze and leave it in a warm place for 3 days (similar to the technique for sourdough).
  • For the soup: Heat 3.5 cups of vegetable stock over medium heat in a soup pot and then pour in 1.5 cups of Zur and stir through. Do not strain this soup, but leave it thick.
  • Next, add the crushed garlic clove and potatoes and simmer.
  • As the potatoes become soft, season the soup to taste and serve with dark bread.

Easter Weekend Day-by-Day

Plus the origin of the Easter basket

Easter is the biggest holiday of the year in Poland.

One of my friends described a three- to four-day feast and celebration in which the participants were very happy and looking forward to a successful new year after Easter Sunday. It sounded to me like New Year's and an entrance to Heaven all at once, with plenty of good traditional, home-crafted food.

They also celebrate with Easter Eggs (which are called pysanky in Polish), so they rather combine two aspects of the holiday season without realizing it — Easter (with the pysanky) and the Resurrection.

Below you'll find more details about this Polish holiday day-by-day.

Another depiction of the Polish basket.
Another depiction of the Polish basket. | Source

Good Friday

A special tradition is saved for the night of Good Friday. Hard-boiled eggs are colored and hand decorated intricately to make a large number of Polish Easter Eggs or pysanky. This custom is widespread throughout Eastern Europe and Ukraine, and each country’s Easter Eggs has traditional patterns emblazoned upon them with colorings, hot wax, a special pen, and a steady hand. Families love to do this activity together and honor it as an expression of newness and rebirth in the cycle of life on Earth. There is also a great Easter Egg Soup recipe to use up the extra eggs in a practical and delicious way. Food anthropologists and museum curators can detect what country the pysanky is from by their pattern and the techniques used in creating them.

Saturday Before Easter

In my church, the Saturday before Easter was a day for nothing special, except for the years in which portions of the congregation and/or staff would hold a 24-hour prayer vigil at the church for Resurrection Day and for the armed service people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Poland, however, it's on Saturday that large baskets cherished by the families would be loaded with the ingredients to be used at Sunday Dinner. These baskets were filled with the beautiful, hand-decorated pysanky, fresh beets, butter, horseradish, breads, babkas that were already baked, Polish Easter cheese, other vegetables, hams, lamb meat, fowl, veal, salt and other spices and herbs, and Polish sausage.

Whatever was to be prepared was placed into these Easter baskets to be taken to the local churches for the priests to bless. This may be where the tradition of the Easter Basket full of candy eggs and jelly beans originated.

Easter eggs at the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw. Poland.
Easter eggs at the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw. Poland. | Source

Easter Sunday

This is the biggest feast day of the year for my friends who are Polish.

Dinner is to begin first with blessed pysanky (see the Easter eggs in the photo above) as members of the dining table share special greetings for success, good health, and joy in the coming year. This is done before sitting down to the table. After the sharing of the pysanky, the Sunday dinner table is set with the very best that the household has to offer in the way of family heirloom tablecloths, runners, napkins, candlesticks, and other fare.

Dinner itself is a return to meat after the fast from meats in favor of fish for the 40 days of Lent. Many kinds of meats are served at Easter Dinner, especially ham or pork, though there is often no fish. Many cabbage dishes might be included. For dessert, my friends serve hot cross buns, babka, poppy seed rolls, kolache (a pastry roll with poppy seeds and raisins), and other pastries. The leftovers from the meal are to be used in a traditional Hunter’s Stew.

Monday After Easter or Wet Monday

I have heard people speaking of Easter Monday, but without any special events attached. However, the Polish have a tradition that is a little like some Carnival traditions in South America.

My Polish friends call the Monday after Easter Smigus-Dyngus (of which I have heard but never understood). It is meant as a totally fun day after the Resurrection of Christ the Sunday before. People sprinkle water over one another for good luck and happiness in the coming year until the next Easter Week celebrations of the church. It must be a little like baptism – a baptism of fun and joy.

The Polish Easter Basket for Blessings

Courtesy, Polish American Center. You can enlarge this picture for a coloring page. Each item in the basket symbolizes the Christian faith in some way.
Courtesy, Polish American Center. You can enlarge this picture for a coloring page. Each item in the basket symbolizes the Christian faith in some way.

The Symbolism of the Items in a Polish Easter Basket

Item
Meaning
Babka
The Bread of Life
Butter
A reminder of the good will of Christ that we should have towards all things; It's often in the shape of a lamb or cross
Horseradish
The Passion of the Christ; this food is also used as bitter herbs on the Passover Seder plate for a Jewish holiday overlapping the Easter season
Pysanky
These are ornately painted eggs, often decorated with symbols of Resurrection. They symbolize the rebirth of man
Polish Sausage
God's favor
Ham or Lamb
Joy and abundance — Christ was the Sacrificial Lamb for humanity
Smoked Bacon
Overabundance of God's mercy
Salt
Prosperity and justice
Homemade Polish Cheese
Moderation
The Lighted Candle
The Light of the World, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Individuals can spread His light
Ribbons and Greenery
Spring, renewal, and the Resurrection
Covering Linens for the Basket
Like the covering of Christ's shroud in the tomb leant by Joseph of Arimethea
The Three Marys at the Tomb
The Three Marys at the Tomb | Source

© 2009 Patty Inglish

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 4 weeks ago from North America

      Rick, that is a wonderful memory. Bless you for sharing it with us.

    • profile image

      Rick Kaminski 4 weeks ago

      Dziękuję - thank you (jen-KOO-yeh) you brought back some wonderful memories from my youth. Remember going to church with the food basket blessing with Grandma. Still eat the foods when the doctor isn't looking. :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 4 weeks ago from North America

      Vickie - Yes! My friend always has those things on Easter as well. :)

    • profile image

      vickie 4 weeks ago

      We always had kielbassa, hard boiled eggs and beets on Easter morning -- which my friends always thought I was nuts when I told them that. Never knew why so this explains alot. Thank you.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Thanks for all that information, Dominion Lad!

      Here's a zurek recipe from the University of Pittsburg on their Polish language website:

      http://polish.slavic.pitt.edu/festival/zurek.recip...

      I have not yet treied this recipe, but I trust the school. Let me know if you try it and I will test it out and get back here with info.

      Thanks again - especially for the links.

    • profile image

      Dominion Lad 6 years ago

      SS -

      I absolutely "love" zurek. Had it first time in at a small cafe in NYC, where it was labelled as "Lithuanian Borscht" (my Baba never made such soups, though I learned to make her mushroom soup -- no doubt many readers can, er, wax poetic on the "perfect" Polish mushroom soup - and we all know that our Babas/babcias made the best "zupa grzybowiego". I can get zurek at Polish specialty shops here in Canada as a "cup-a-soup" by Knorr. Most of these shops also sell a "ready-made" product in a poly-pack, unfortunately, very laden with salt.

      Much as I know that salt is needed/required for some food, the less, the better....

      I'd love to try making zurek for myself. Can you post or reference a site for a recipe that you recommend? The Knorr "cup-a-soup" sold in Canada (Polish instructions only), also has bacon bits in it. It's very yummy...but if I can make my own, so much the better, and will be so much healthier (sodium-reduced/minimized).... see my posts, above, about heart-stopping Easter cheese/butter spread....(:-) Healthy is good - but one can, er, indulge once per year....

    • profile image

      Dominion Lad 6 years ago

      Short comment - Dingus Day! Was/is that something that Poles in Buffalo and "po Poludnju" (roughly, Buffalo, its suburbs and environs, and the Canadian side, Niagara peninsula, towards and into Toronto), celebrate on Easter Monday? I'm sure Poles in Detroit and Chicago "do it", but what about elsewhere. Any special foods involved? I'm always looking for new "food experiences"....

      For those who do....

      Smigus-Dyngus

      See, Baba, what learning Russian (which you were so dead against), at university gave me? -- an ability to learn/read/write all Slavic languages.....(:-)

      God Bless you and your memory, Baba/Babcia

    • profile image

      Dominion Lad 6 years ago

      For anyone wanting to know what "Polish Buffalo" used to sound like, I recommend the site "Forgotten Buffalo". I'm appending two links from the site. Sadly, the site owner only has Stan Jasinski speaking in English. I know that his program was probably 95% Polish. As a child, I really didn't understand Polish, but that didn't matter -- Stan Jasinski (and Matt Korponty), were just part of my "weekend experience". Enjoy the Lucki-Urban ads - I was surprised that they were also recorded in English! I only heard them in Polish, and of course never understood them. Understanding Polish took 3 years of University Russian, but that's another story....

      http://www.forgottenbuffalo.com/forgottenbuffalome...

      http://www.forgottenbuffalo.com/forgottenbuffaloso...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Thanks a million for the help with the recipe, Dominion Lad. I will do ir this evening. Happy Resurrection Day and Easter.

    • profile image

      Dominion Lad 6 years ago

      Patty - keep the cheese and butter at room temperature (easier to spread/pile on the bread). Just take the farmer's curd (it's like one large cottage cheese curd, for those who've never seen this product) and blend it with the room temperature butter. As I said, about 50/50. You can salt it lightly as you mix it, though if you use salted butter, it won't need much.

      Off to my sister's for dinner today, and no doubt she'll also have some to eat. Once it's gone, that's it until next Easter.

      Believe me - tasty as it is, I'm sure that eating it more than once a year is not good for one's health.

      I should be hearing polka music now in the kitchen, along with Stan Jasinski's "Buffalo Polish". Sadly, those days are past....but I have the memories....

      Weso?ego Alleluja!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      SS - Thanks for the soup Knowledge; we'll try to whiop some up.

      Dominion Lad - What a wonderful set of posts! I wish I'd had a chance to listen to the Polish radio broacasts ou heard. I will gather together the foods you mentioned for later tonight. See if I can approximate the spread. Once a uear is likely enough, but something to look forward to.

    • profile image

      Dominion Lad 6 years ago

      Forgot to comment - growing up just on the Canadian side of Buffalo (Niagara Falls, Ontario), my Baba and mother always tuned into Stan Stach Jusinski's "Polish American Program" on Sundays (beginning, of course with the mass from St Stan's). When he referenced "po Polodnju" (sp?), all knew he meant both sides of the border (though the ads were primarily for Buffalo-based establishments -- Lucki-Urban, Wardinski (don't give my that baloney, I want Wardinsky's!), Szelagowski (Shelly-brand meat products) and Genesee Monuments come to mind), as well as anyone with a stall in the Broadway Market (na Broadway Marketu). And Stan favoured anyone doing business at "Broadway, bliska Filmore"... (forgive the bad Polish illiteration - I'm an Anglo, with a wonderful Polish mother/matka....)

      Am I the only Canadian who grew up listening to Buffalo Polish radio as a kid?

      Am I the only kid (either side of the border) who remembers Buffalo Polish radio? As far as know, it's now dead.....

      ....anyone remember Matt Korponti?

      ....am I just a ghost in the wind?

    • profile image

      Dominion Lad 6 years ago

      I'm writing from Canada. British-origin father, and a mother of mixed Polish-Ukranian ancestry (my Polish grandfather came to Canada in 1930). So, in addition to "traditional" Canadian (British) fare, if my father liked it, my mother could cook it! (My father apparently hated borshcht and bigos, so I didn't get that at home!)

      So - one thing my mother (and Baba), always made/makes for Easter, is a cholesteral-clogging spread of about half farmer's curd cheese and half butter. Spread it (about a quarter-inch...or more...! thick) on a slice of rye bread or babka, and it's literally to die for. Never served before Good Friday of course, (my mother always makes a cross of cloves on it - so Catholic!). Even my (Prot) father observed Good Friday as being totally meatless, and also devoid of dairy. Anyway, this "heart-stopping" spread was/is always served on Saturday, with ham, kielbasa (gee, more ham....), hard-cooked and coloured eggs, and beets/horseradish (the hotter, the better).....if you're a Slav, you know all the variations of "kran"....

      Vegetables at this meal? What vegetables? Guess the beets were the vegetables... And who can't remember the grinding of the horseradish (best done outside, lest the freshly ground horseradish root impaired one's breathing....

      So, is this butter/cheese spread Polish or Ukranian or...just my mother's family tradition? Russians make something similar, though it's sieved through cheese-cloth, and is more of a "loaf", and is not spreadable. Anyone else grow up with this once-a-year heart-stopping spread? As a kid, all my great aunts (Ukranians married to Poles) made/served this heart-stopper.

      Enjoyed my mother's tonight. I've made it and have served it to WASP friends in the past, who look at it puzzingly, but have never refused seconds.

      Inquiring minds.....

    • profile image

      S.S. 6 years ago

      Bob. Currer. A good Polish Easter Soup is Zurek. Its made out of eggs, and some other stuff. So if there are extra eggs that someone does not eat at dinner than you make soup from it for dinner.My parents are immigrants from Poland, and i being 100 percent polish celebrate this holiday every year. But just like MD said i haven't really seen anyone put a candle in an easter basket before. Anyways its really nice that all of you are intrested in this holiday. Good Job Patty =)

    • fiona_33 profile image

      fiona_33 6 years ago from UK

      Terrifc hub. Really tasty recipes. If I can find the time, I'm going to try one this weekend.

    • Jasnav profile image

      Jasnav 7 years ago

      Interesting, yummy polish recipes. Great stuff on this hub!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      I'll look in my recipe box this weekend and see if I have one. Thanks.

    • Bob.Currer@gmail. profile image

      Bob.Currer@gmail. 7 years ago from El Mirage, AZ

      Sounds good. I'd like to see a good recipe for Polish Easter Soup...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Thanks Laringo. Hope you having the best day today!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 7 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      Patty, The Polish tradition of Easter is very interesting and the recipes sound very good. You have increased my knowledge about other cultures and done it very well as usual. Have a wonderful Easter.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Considering the information came from Polish people, it must be a matter of differing country regions, or a prank on your part, all the more interesting. I see you're in Amsterdam. Thanks.

    • profile image

      MD 7 years ago

      And one more thing - being a Pole living in Poland, I have never seen or heard of such things as a candle in the basket or a Polish Easter Cheese. These must be a Polish American invention :-) Your Easter Basket seems to be very unorthodox. Happy Easter :-)

    • wordsimmaculate profile image

      wordsimmaculate 7 years ago from delhi

      Happy Easter to all.... :-)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Happy Easter and a blessed Resurrection Day to you all.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      So interesting. I love the basket. Such wonderful information. I'm going to have to use this as a lesson plan. (Thought I had commented on this, but I think I got so excited I started sharing and forgot. lol!) Thanks as always, Patty.

    • profile image

      Marianna 7 years ago

      First in aristocratic houses there was big table with all food for Easter Breakfast, then priest came to bless it. Basket was later.

      Now at Easter Breakfast we first eat everything from the basket, and then other things (salads, meat).

      It is interesting to find american page about Polish Easter, I was looking in google for patterns of easter crafts....

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Thanks for your comments Marianna. The traditional Easter Basket recipe is very old.

    • profile image

      Marianna 7 years ago

      Isn't it too traditional basket? I haven't seen candle in any Easter Basket.

      In my family there was only one kind of meat - sausage, and no butter. But there was always sugar lamb - all kids wanted it at Easter Breakfast :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      In your honor and your mother's honor, I will try this with Mayonnaise and vinegar, both of which are very tasty.And yes, pepper is beautiful! Now I am very hungry.

    • spryte profile image

      spryte 7 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Cucumber Salad is still one of my favoritest things in the world (courtesy of my Polish decent). The only difference is that my mother never used sour cream. Instead, she used mayonnaise and vinegar. We also added some diced onions and plenty of black pepper. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm :)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      cheryl - So sorry for the loss of your grandmother! Keep cooking in Polish to honor her, I say. I have been remembering my Polish friends from times past this spring and glad to write about these recipes and traditions. I was alwsys interested in their Easter that was bigger than Christmas.

      Correen - I become hungry every time I read these recipes. Hope you love them!

    • profile image

      Correen 7 years ago

      Yes! Yummy share of traditions and recipes. Thank you.

    • profile image

      cheryl 7 years ago

      I came to tears reading your article. I come from a Polish family and my dear aunt has served as the matriarch for the past ten years. She passed away a few weeks ago. It felt like an era had ended. It's a comfort to know there are other Poles out there still carrying on these traditions!!!!!

    • profile image

      issues veritas 7 years ago

      Patty

      Great recipes, I forgot about these foods, thanks for the recipes.

    • Heartaday profile image

      Heartaday 8 years ago

      I ate at a very charming Polish restaurant in Joliet, Illinois a couple of weeks ago. That was my introduction to Polish food. I fell in love with it!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      RKHenry - I hope eggs are as inexpensive there as they are in Ohio right now - 50 cents to 1 dollar a dozen. Coloring is so much fun.

      JamaGenee - I have to make the noodles tonight, because I cannot wait any longer :) I am not Polish, but can read a couple of words of it. We all can cook in Polish!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      This all sounds so yummy! Can I become Polish for the weekend and invite myself to one of your homes on Sunday?  ;) 

      Thanks, Patty, for another wonderful and informative hub.  Now I have to go find something to eat - my stomach is growling from reading these recipes!

    • RKHenry profile image

      RKHenry 8 years ago from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA

      Exactly! Isn't that sad? Really. Think of all the kids who might not get to color an egg, because its not in the budget. I still color Easter Eggs. My friends and I love it. It makes our mothers happy too. Which is always a good thing.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Hopefully they are "on sale" for Easter :)

    • RKHenry profile image

      RKHenry 8 years ago from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA

      Now that this wonderful hub has made me hungry. I'm ready to paint some eggs.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Wonderful, and I will be making similar dishes and I will think of you all at your own special meal.

      I don't think I'll throw any water, though, it could be met with gunfire in some neighborhoods. Small children might think its fun though and I will have to tech them this tradition :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a wonderful celebration of this important Polish holiday! You introduced me to several things I didn't know, including the Wet Monday tradition. Our family will be having babka, eggs, cabbage and noodles, and fresh kielbasa on Easter Sunday, and I will make a toast to you and this excellent Hub with a dzi?kuj? and a rousing na zdrowie!

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