Decorating for Easter in a Polish Country Cottage Part 1. Holy pictures and paper flowers
It's interesting to read how spring cleaning, now pretty much considered an antiquated ritual, was at one time an important aspect of life in Poland as part of the preparation for Easter.
The impending arrival of spring and Easter Sunday, both rich with the meaning of rebirth and renewal, also meant that it was time to refresh and renew the interior of their cottages. The walls, darkened with soot and smoke from wood fires and kerosene lamps, were whitewashed, windows were cleaned and holy pictures redecorated, the latter chiefly done by the women of the house.
Pictures on walls, specifically, holy pictures, in a Polish country cottage became more commonplace towards the end of the 19th century. By the time of World War I, a country cottage could boast a least a few holy pictures and many more than that, depending on finances. They were bought on pilgrimage or church feast days or from itinerant peddlers who made the rounds of villages. The pictures were hung near the ceiling in a row on the wall opposite the entryway.
They were secured to the wall with the help of a piece of wood that ran along the length wall at ceiling level that would cause the top of the picture to tilt forward into the room. If that wall ran out of room to accommodate all the pictures, the remainder were hung on the nearby wall with a window.
By the late 1930's, there was an increased tendency to place the holy pictures not so much in a row but in a more radom fashion. If, for instance, a family owned two large pictures, one was hung above the headboard of the bed(usually located in a corner against the wall) with the other one on the next wall at the same height. Smaller holy pictures were placed at the sides of both pictures..(Sierpc photo)
Some images were decorated with chains made from a combination of crepe paper and straw or ribbons and used as garlands below the picture, attached three quarters or halfway down the frame and fastened to the side of the frame with flowers or to the wall.
For the people living at the juncture of the Wisła and San rivers, known as Lasowiacy, the larger and most cherished religious pictures during high holy days were decorated in a variety of ways. Interestingly enough, in this region spruce and fir branches were used chiefly for Easter and less so during the Christmas season. The branches were tucked behind the holy pictures, nailed around them or between them.
The holy pictures were also decorated with artificial flowers, and not just in this small region of Poland, but throughout all of southern Poland. Folk art historians claim that artificial flowers made an appearance in country cottages right around the same time as wycinanki, colorful paper cut outs, due to the arrival of glossy colored paper in the 1850's. The flowers were made from a combination of stiff paper as well as crepe paper, a commodity readily available by the 18th and 19th century.
The flowers themselves were made from the softer, more malleable crepe paper, and attached to thin branches covered with green crepe paper. The stiff paper was used to made into green leaves. The most frequent types of flowers made by the Lasowiacy were roses, chrysanthemums and the tiny, daisy-like flowers of chamomile.
Other regions made poppies, daisies, bluebottle, forget-me-nots and cornflower (bachelor's button). The flowers were then attached to the frames in a variety of ways, either around or under the pictures.
Some images were decorated with chains made from a combination of crepe paper and straw or ribbons and used as garlands below the picture, attached three quarters or halfway down the frame and fastened to the side of the frame with flowers or to the wall. The following photos depict the variety of ways the Lasowiacy decorated their holy pictures.
. As can be seen by the illustration to the left curtains made from tissue paper in white, rose, yellow or light blue colors were made to decorate the holy pictures. The paper curtain was glued to the top and half way along the length of the picture a thin ribbon was used to pull back the paper curtain as one would on a window curtain and paper flowers added.
In remote villages, colorful paper and tissue flowers were used by the women folk of Poland for a long time to beautify their home at Easter. When artificial flowers, both silk and plastic, readily became available in the marketplace, they began to replace the labor intensive method of making their own. The age-old art form was almost lost but if You Tube is any indication, it seems to be making a revival in Poland.
I've always loved red poppies as a flower and used silk ones to decorate my image of Our Lady of Częstochowa found at the top of the blog
Photos by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab at skansens in Łowicz and Sierpc in Poland.
Next blog: Decorating Interior of Polish County Cottage Part 2 Paper curtains
Aleksander Jackowski, Polska Sztuka Ludowa. Warsawa 2002.
Zdobnictwo Wnętrz Wiejskich na Terenie Wideł Wisły i Dolnego Sanu. Polska Sztuka Ludowa. 1973 XXVII nr.3 (illustrations)
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.