On Palm Sunday we ventured into the old town a second time. Poland is not the land of palm trees, although Charles De Gaulle square has a huge plastic palm tree. (It is a work of art. Before the war a road ran from this circle to a Jewish suburb called “New Jerusalem.” The plastic palm tree honors that.) In place of palms Poles parade with bouquets made up of pussy willow and forsythia. The tradition is to make cuttings on Ash Wednesday, take the branches home, put them in water, so they will flower before Palm Sunday. In Warsaw on this cold and snowy Palm Sunday vendors sold those bouquets on the streets, their cut ends sticking up from snow drifts. Some of the Palm Sunday bouquets were made of plastic spring flowers. At one particular church near the Barbican parishioners carried, not the bouquets but huge palm fronds imported from somewhere. Outside St. John’s Cathedral a hooded black figure, representing death, stood guard at the door. He had a heart shaped candy box at his feet for alms. Inside the church the crosses were covered with the purple Lenten veil. Demonstrators stood in front of the Royal Palace. I had heard that there was to be a protest against the government over economic policy. On Saturday we saw police erecting barricades in front of the Parliament. But this demonstration was Catholic Youth protesting EU policy requiring member state health care plans to fund abortions.
Outside some churches Easter markets were in full swing. Easter wreaths made of spring flowers and colored eggs looked out of place in the snow and cold. The Gluwein sold in one of the booths seemed more appropriate. The markets also sold Easter breads and Easter egg salt and pepper shakers with matching mugs.