Polish Folk Art Traditions


Polish Paper Cuts (Wycinanki)

"Wycinanki" pronounced Vee-chee-non-kee is the Polish word for paper-cut design. Just when and why this art form began to flower in Poland seems a matter of some uncertainty. Some say it goes back to the time when few farm houses had glass windows. To keep out the elements, peasant farmers hung sheep skins over the window openings. Then, to let in some light and air, they took their sheep shears and snipped small openings in the skins, and these were soon recognized as decorative as well as functional. The most well known modern styles of Wycinanki comes from two districts. One is the Kurpie cut out. This is usually a symmetrical design, cut from a single piece of colored paper, folded a single time, with spruce trees and birds as the most popular motifs. The second style comes from the area of Lowicz. It is distinguished by the many layers of brightly colored paper used in its composition.The unique richness of paper-cut designs done in the Polish tradition is a special contribution to the artistic heritage of the world.

Traditional Polish Palmowy (Palms)

In pre-Christian times, branches lavishly decorated with flowers and ribbons were carried in annual spring processions around fields and villages. These processions were thought to both protect arid Increase the fertility of al living things within the magic circles they marked out. In many regions of Poland, it Is still customary for parish Sunday services to begin with a procession in which a palm-carrying congregation circles the parish church three limes. Certainly, the towering palmy which add so much color to Palm Sunday processions in the Kurpie region of Poland have their roots In earlier pagan traditions. Kurpie palmy are made by tightly weaving greens and dried or paper flowers around pussy wlilow, birch, or other fresh cut branches in a style which recalls the traditional decoration of May Poles.

Easter Eggs- [Pisanki]  

In many of the world's cultures, the egg has represented the original source of creation. It was from this egg that the universe was originally born. During the spring cycle of festivals, the ancient pre-Christian peoples used decorated eggs to welcome the sun and to help the sun s rebirth to power and warmth, ensuring fertility of the fields, river, herds, and ultimately, of Man. They believed that to recreate this egg and decorate it with the many symbols of fertility, power and life, they would be able to assist the world in remaining alive, powerful and above all, good. The egg came to symbolize the greatest of all mysteries that humanity could experience — The Mystery of Life.The symbolism of pisanki design blends ancient, pagan rituals with modern, Christian traditions. The pagans celebrated the joyous spring cycle, the rebirth of nature.Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, the spiritual rebirth of man. Both Easter and the spring season are a time for release from the sober cloistering of the cold winter and of the introversion of the Great Lent. It took little extension of faith to endow existing pisanki symbolism with Christian significance.The traditional pisanki motifs and designs did not need to be changed. It was the interpretation that created much of the difference between pre-Christian and Christian symbolism. In the folk life of Polish people, the pisanki possess talismanic powers. Receipt of a pisanka is not only a token of friendship or esteem but also brings with it protection from harm. People believed that pisanki in the home would bring good fortune, wealth, health, and protection from lightning and fire.

----> See http://www.okana.net/pisanka.html for more information on pisanka including meaning of the symbols and colors used.


 To Learn More About Polish Traditions

Drwal, Frances. Polish Wycinanki Designs. Owings Mills MD: Stemmer House Publishers, Inc., 2627 Caves Rd, 1984.

Hodorowicz-Knab, Sophie. Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore. NY: Hippocrene Books, 171 Madison Ave., 10016, 1993.

---. Polish Herbs, Flowers & Folk Medicine. NY: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1995.

---. Polish Wedding Customs & Traditions. NY: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1997.

Holtz, Loretta. The Christmas Spider: A Puppet Play From Poland & Other Traditional Games, Crafts and Activities. NY: Philomel Books, 200 Madison Ave., 10016, 1980.

Jablonski, Ramona. The Paper Cut-Out Design Book. Ownings Mills MD: Stemmer House Publishers, Inc., 2627 Caves Rd., 21117, 1976.

Kozlowski, L. G. Christmas Ornaments...Polish Style. Pittsburgh PA: Polska, 808 Phineas St., 15212.

---. Easter Eggs....Polish Style. Pittsburgh PA: Polska Folk Arts, 808 Phineas St., 15212, 1989.

---. Paper Cuts....Polish Style. Pittsburgh PA: Polska Folk Arts, 808 Phineas St., 15212.

Krysa, Rev. Czeslaw Michal. A Polish Christmas Eve: Traditions and Recipes, Decorations and Song . Lewiston NY: CWB Press, PO Box 99 14092-0099, 1998.

---. The Signature of Spring: Podpis Wiosny. Orchard Lake MI: The Orchard Lake Schools, 48324

Nowakowski, Jacek and Marlene Perrin, ed. Polish Touches: Recipes and Traditions. Iowa City Iowa: Penfield Press, 1996

Polanie Club. Treasured Polish Christmas Customs and Traditions. Minneapolis MN: Polanie Publishing Co., 1972.

Pula, James S. Polish Americans: An Ethnic Community. NY: Twayne Publishers, 1995.

Rich, Chris. The Book of Paper Cutting. NY: Sterling/Lark Book, 1993.

Silverman, Deborah Anders. Polish-American Folklore. Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

Waszkelewicz-Clowes, Florence. Polish Folk Legends. Buffalo NY: Polish-American Journal Books,1992


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