Although carolling is mostly associated with Christmas, it is also possible to enjoy this activity during the other biggest Christian holiday – Easter. In Poland, the most common and characteristic ritual performed at Easter is called pisanki and involves painting Easter eggs. A slightly less popular custom, especially in modern times, is called bębnienie (drumming or banging) – to announce the Resurrection, participants call on all the houses in the village, banging on the doors and shouting out the glad tidings. Dyngus Monday or Śmigus Dyngus is another widespread Easter tradition. In Lublin Land (Lubelskie), it has also been known as Lejus, Lejok, Dyngus or just Śmigus.
Carollers and carolling
The ritual of calling on the houses around the village and singing carols is very similar to Christmas carolling, albeit the repertoire is quite different. The Easter carolling has its variety of local names, too. In Lubelskie, people describe it as chodzenie po lejusie (lejosie), po lejokach z pasyjką, po śmigusie, po dyngusie, po racyjkach or po wołoczebnem. In Suwałki Land (Suwalszczyzna), Easter carolling in the farmers’ houses is usually known as chodzenie po Allelui or Allelujki. The ritual is held on Easter Monday (hence Dyngus Monday) and it is called Jastrowi Poniedzôłk in the region of Kashubia (Kaszuby).
The groups of carollers usually consisted of young boys, known as jajarze (‘egg boys’) in Lubelskie and wołokalniki or wołoczebniki in the region of Podlasie (sometimes called Podlachia in English).
Their repertoire included
– simple recited poems
Before entering the visited house, they called out e.g.:
It was one of the so-called ‘permission formulas’ announced before the actual singing of the songs. Upon arriving at the visited house, the carollers needed permission to start singing and well-wishing. If a host denied access to his house, the carollers recited the so-called ‘cursing formulas’, e.g.:
(recorded in the village of Mocarze)
Or more bluntly
(from the Phonographic Collection of the Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences, recording number T 4266/05, spoken by Edward Kobeczko born 1955)
The hosts who denied the carollers access to their houses were called different names (misers, swine, ragmen) and ridiculed. Such situations were rather rare, however. The villagers were normally welcoming and hospitable towards their carolling guests.
Orations and Easter carols
Easter carollers do not only sing the carols – they also deliver orations, such as:
Recited by carolling boys in Niezabitów, Poniatowa Commune, source: Lubelskie part 1, Polish Song and Folk Music
A different text was used in the village of Bochotnica, Kazimierz Dolny Commune:
In Podlasie, the tradition was that when coming up to the farmers, the carollers began by singing the first verse of the popular Easter song Chrystus zmartwywstan jest (Christ Is Risen). It is actually the oldest Polish Easter song and, what is even more astonishing, the first dated church song found in Poland (!).
What did the carolling traditions in Suwalszczyzna look like? Carols performed by children and teenagers from Anna Andruszkiewicz’s ensemble Młode Jezioranki were recorded in 1998. They were part of a very successful reconstruction of traditional Easter carolling performed in the commune of Wiżajny in north Suwalszczyzna (the region around the city of Suwałki):
The most popular motif included in Polish Easter carols, performed all throughout the country, is the oration that opens with the phrase „Przyszli my tu po dyngusie” („We’ve come all the way for Dyngus”). The following is a version used on the Polish Baltic coast (in the region of Pomerania/Pomorze):