Spring carolling

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 LejusLejokDyngus or just Śmigus.

Dyngus Monday, a postcard from before WWII. Source: Polona

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

– orations

– songs

Before entering the visited house, they called out e.g.:

Dear host, dear hostess, we have come to cheer up your house. Will you let us in?

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.:

Grey mare raises her tail

Asking for ransom

Don’t deny her,

Or you will kiss her backside. Alleluia!

(recorded in the village of Mocarze)

Or more bluntly

The house is all empty,

And the hosts are a bunch of misers

(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:

On Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday

Jesus suffered greatly.

He was sad and he was in pain,

Yet he did it for us, faithful Christians.


My brother and I woke up at dawn,

And brushed the morning dew.

In ragged shirts, naked and barefoot,

We’ll reach your stove and your millet

Your stove will warm us

And your millet will be raked.


There’s a little poppy-head in the garden,

And the hostess in her wardrobe.

It’s the summer

And the poppy-head’s in bloom,

Come on, dear host, and support us!

Recited by carolling boys in Niezabitów, Poniatowa Commune, source: Lubelskie part 1, Polish Song and Folk Music

Easter postcard from 1934, source: Polona.

A different text was used in the village of Bochotnica, Kazimierz Dolny Commune:

I’ve come all the way for Śmigus,

Don’t you let me down.

Throw two eggs into my basket

Throw some more into my bag.

Check out the chest,

Pull out some pork.

Check out the stove,

Pull out some cake.

A threescore of eggs

That’s just what we want!

source: Lubelskie part 1, Polish Song and Folk Music

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 (!).

Christ is risen,
And shown us the way,
To the Resurrection,
One day we’ll sit with God on high, alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia!,
Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia!

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):

We’ve come all the way for Dyngus,

We have good news about Christ.

On Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday

Jesus suffered for us all.

But he rose after three days,

And approached the children:

Dyngu, dyngu – double the eggs,

Don’t need bread, want some eggs

(in: W. Frankowska, Carolling in Kashubia, 2015, p. 147).

Traditions of Easter carols

The traditions of Easter carols are not equally distributed throughout Poland. In Lubelskie (around the city of Lublin), they are still much alive, but in Kujawy (or Kuyavia), for example, one could find it difficult to bump into Easter carollers now. In the past, though, carolling was usually performed by young male adults there. They would wave paper flags and one of them would also hold a special basket (for the gifts they would collect). The donations they received covered the cost of a party that followed the ritual.

The Easter carols were performed by singers or groups of singers and musicians – in the village of Mocarze, Jedwabne Commune, they used to play the pedal accordion (!) and the drum, whereas the village of Peńsk in Mońki Commune employed violinists. In Wileńszczyzna, around the city of Wilno (now Vilnius in the Republic of Lithuania), the carollers were accompanied by a dulcimer player.

Going around the village and performing carols and orations at Easter has been just one of many traditions and rituals practised throughout Poland. In north Wielkopolska (Greater Poland), people still engage in Chorzemińskie Siwki, whereby masked performers flog people’s legs (it is described in more detail in one of the previous articles). The ritual of calf flogging is also known in Kashubia/Kaszuby. Young boys run around the village flogging people’s legs with birch twigs or juniper branches during what is locally known as degusë. Twig flogging invoked magical powers to heal a sick person. According to Witosława Frankowska, a scholar researching Kashubian carolling traditions, it was also meant to protect the flogged person from lice and the threat of becoming an old maid (!). The list of local traditions goes on. You will find more of them in our future articles.

An Easter postcard from 1908, source: Polona

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