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Emaus festival by St. Norbert's convent
Krakow's Emaus Easter fiesta has drawn crowds since the Middle Ages

Easter in Krakow 

Easter, the paramount Christian feast, has a special meaning and a distinct quality in springtime Krakow with its rich Catholic traditions and abundance of beautiful churches. In the ancient capital of Poland the festival spreads over four days. 

 

Good Friday
It's a workday in Poland but the country's Catholics usually try to visit a church to say a prayer on that very special and solemn day. The faithful fast, eating just two meals and no meat whatsoever.

Holy Saturday 

On Ester Eve everybody, notably children, visits the parish church with a basket of the traditional Easter foodstuff – bread, eggs, ham, sausages, and a piece of horseradish – to have them consecrated by priest. It is also the occasion to see ‘the grave of the Lord Jesus’, arranged in a chapel or a crypt, by which scouts, firefighters, the military, etc. stand guard of honor. And the faithful keep long vigils. 

Easter

Easter Sunday traditionally remains quiet and confined to the family and the church. First thing in the morning the faithful attend a predawn or very early Resurrection service. Then the whole family has the festive common breakfast featuring the victuals consecrated at the church on Holy Saturday, with the ‘pisanki’ Easter eggs–hardboiled and painted–as the highlight.

Easter Monday
Easter Monday is a public holiday in Poland, customarily devoted to amusement and socializing. Krakow’s chief venue remains the centuries-old Emaus fair. Universal Poland’s tradition is ‘smingus-dyngus’, i.e. splashing water over one another on the Easter Monday; teenagers do it in the streets with zest and by bucketful. At the same time you may come across the ‘smigusnicy’ masqueraders.

Krakow’s Easter Monday’s s fair has drawn since the Middle Ages joyful crowds to the Zwierzyniec area by the 800-year-old convent of St. Norbert's Premonstratensian order. The fair stems from the ancient celebration of the All Souls Day, moved later to November 2 in the church calendar. And not so long ago during the fiesta innumerable stands and stalls sold clay bells against evil spirits, magical wooden hatchets, and toy birds representing souls. Now they trade mostly in homely sweets and junk toys. Yet the Emaus fair remained for Krakow dwellers the family Easter outing of choice, mostly beloved by children. And teenagers find it perfect for drenching each other with water, which is Poland’s favorite Easter Monday sport.

Easter Tuesday
Although it's a workday nowadays, on Tuesday after Easter another Krakow centuries-old fair, Rekawka, takes place by the church of St. Benedict’s atop the Lasota Hill south of the city center and/or next to a nearby ancient barrow, Mound of Krak, one the city’s mysterious prehistoric earthworks. The fiesta probably has roots in pagan rites in honor of the dead celebrated here in the Dark Ages. Its feature used to be scattering coins and sweets that boys fought over. There were also bonfires and various contests, from fencing to pole climbing. After WW II yearly Rekawka fairs have attracted mostly children with simple amusements and cheap sweets and toys overflowing stalls. There are efforts recently to reinvent and enliven the fiesta as a medieval festival.

Rekawka fiesta on the Mound of Krak
Krakow's centuries-old fiesta of Rekawka: scattering coins and sweets that boys fought over was once its feature.

Social events
Profusion of social gatherings around Easter, from formal banquets to wild parties, with the common theme of egg-sharing and well-wishing is relatively new feature of Krakow’s Easter festival.

Cultural attractions
Holy Week’s yearly Misteria Paschalia Easter festival of music has managed to bring world-class classical-music acts to Krakow in the recent years and became the season’s cultural highlight.

Working hours on Holy Week and Easter
Monday through Saturday opening times on Holy Week are as usual except shopping malls and supermarkets may keep longer hours. On Easter Sunday and Monday all stores stay closed. Museums and tourist attractions generally close for Easter Sunday but many open for Easter Monday. Restaurants and other eateries as well as coffee shops, pubs, bars, etc. stay open every day. Most nightspots keep normal hours but on the Holy Week and Easter there isn't much nightlife in Krakow anyway.

Advice: In need of purchasing foodstuffs, toiletries, etc. on Easter Sunday or Monday one may resort to gas stations that run small shops and stay open nonstop. Medicines are sold by selected pharmacies designated to remain on duty.

Easter market in Krakow


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Krakow Folk Traditions
Krakow region has always been rich in colorful folk traditions, handed down from generation to generation. 


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