Easter palms from Małopolska
Especially in the past, the traditional palm was of great significance. It stood for health, fertility and vitality, as well as warding off evil powers and lightning. Throughout the Małopolska region, the traditional Easter palm is a floral composition, and the choice of plants and decorations is linked to the folk culture of the given region. Palms are made from willow twigs (e.g. in the Podhale region or near Zawoja where with the addition of yew, juniper, and sometimes cherry twigs) or hazel twigs (e.g. at the Kliszczaks’). They are decorated with periwinkle, myrtle, boxwood, ribbons, and tissue paper flowers.
The Vilnius palm
The Vilnius palm is probably the most widespread in Małopolska. It originates from the Vilnius region. It is made of dried natural and dyed grass, flowers and herbs. A characteristic feature of this palm is its top, made of grasses dyed in various colours. A collection of beautiful palms, gathered for many years, can be found in the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków. The longest palm is 4.5 metres high!
The Lipnica palm
The Lipnica palm is another most popular Easter one. It is made of carefully arranged wicker rods, which are also tied with wicker twigs every 20-30 cm, depending on the height of the palm. A bunch of pond grass is fastened at the end. The palm is decorated with flowers and ribbons made of tissue paper, boxwood and basil. Lipnica Murowana is home to the most famous Józef Piotrowski Lipnica Palm and Handicraft Competition, which dates back to 1958.
Palms in Rabka-Zdrój or Rabka palms
Palms created in the vicinity of Rabka-Zdrój are very interesting as well. These are long, flexible palms made of willow twigs and decorated with green plants (spruce and pine twigs), tissue paper decorations (colourful flowers and ribbons), and above all, paper (bows). A characteristic feature of Rabka palms is their decoration with colourful paper bows. It was in Rabka-Zdrój that the first Easter palm competition was held in 1958. Interestingly, the competition in Lipnica Murowana took place on the same day, in the same year, but half an hour later, thus not gaining the title of the oldest. In the Rabka region, particularly in the Mszana Dolna area, the magical and curative properties of Easter palms were well known. It was believed that they protected against lightning, which is why their branches were placed in the room behind holy pictures.
Palms in the Lemkos' culture
Palm Sunday is one of the most significant holidays also in the Orthodox and Greek Catholic calendar. Even though palms brought by the Lemkos to Orthodox churches are much more modest than those celebrated in Roman Catholic churches, they carry many traditions, including
- burning the palm in the oven was supposed to protect the house from being struck by lightning;
- the blessed catkin was placed under the first wreath of a newly built house to ensure good luck;
- healing the sick;
- burning the palm in the oven during a thunderstorm was supposed to chase the devil out of the chimney, as it was believed that lightning would shoot into it;
- to this day the blessed palm is placed behind a painting, and in the past, it was nailed right at the entrance to a stable to protect the animals.
Made of willow twigs, they are decorated only with a colourful ribbon and green plants, especially boxwood.
Palms of the Podhale Highlanders and the Kliszczaks
In the tradition of the Podhale region, the Easter palm should be made of willow twigs covered with basil and tied with linen. Nowadays, its form has been slightly modified, and conifer twigs, tissue paper flowers and ribbons are used. In the old days, catkins of a blessed palm were placed under a furrow when ploughing the first crop was ploughed, together with a piece of bread or a cake, and thrown into the first crop to ensure farmers a good harvest. The palms were also left in many places in the garden and the field. Moreover, it was believed that an Easter palm wrapped in linen twine could act as a magic whip for sheep. The whip was supposed to protect the sheep from disease and prevent them from going astray on their journey.
One more interesting example is the tradition of the Kliszczaks' Easter palms. The palm they call "bagnięć" is made of hazel twigs bound with wolfberry, or more often with string. A traditional Kliszczaks' palm should be 2 to 3 metres high, and its top should be the decorated part. Crosses made from the Kliszczaks' palms were hung over the barn door and were supposed to protect the cattle from the evil effects of witchcraft.
In the past, all over Małopolska, Easter palms were attributed with extraordinary powers. People in different regions of Małopolska cultivated various traditions, e.g. crosses made of palms were also hung over barn doors, granaries and barn gates to protect them from lightning, fire and other misfortunes. Farmers also used palms to keep their pets healthy and stuck palm branches or crosses into fields. Pieces of the bundle were added to holy herbs to exfoliate sick people and pets. The catkins of the blessed palm were swallowed immediately after coming from church to protect against a sore throat. Today, many of these customs are disappearing, but palms in Małopolska are still made in the traditional way, typical for the region.