Each Easter Monday, Cracovians flock to the indulgence at the Church of the Holy Saviour and the Norbertine convent in Zwierzyniec.

Every Easter Monday, the faithful assemble at churches to hear the Gospel about Jesus’s disciples on their way to Emmaus. Cracovians flock to the Emmaus indulgence at the Church of the Holy Saviour and the Norbertine convent in Zwierzyniec. They have been doing so for centuries – according to historians, the Christian indulgence tradition dates back as far as the 12th century, and in fact it may be even older and have roots in pagan rites celebrated during the spring equinox.

In the past, the event was steeped in spirituality, but since the 19th century it has been a huge folk fete with stalls selling toys and confectionery, and competitions such as hitting a target with a rag ball or climbing a greasy pole. In recent years, the market has been overwhelmed by the ubiquitous colourful plastic, although we are seeing a return to more traditional toys such as wooden figures and clay whistles. This is largely thanks to the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków, hosting the annual exhibition at the Zwierzyniecki House presenting former traditions and encouraging visitors to make their own toys.

One of Easter Monday traditions in Poland dating back to the Slavic days – spraying people with water – was also a perfect excuse to get away with pouring water from the Vistula over maidens heading to the indulgence. The custom, mentioned in the first written description of the indulgence, was already described as ancient in the 16th century, confirming historians’ belief of its ancient roots.

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