It is here, near the Church of St. Anne in Łyse, that we can see the longest Easter Palms in Poland, which are several metres long. Every year on Palm Sunday, they are brought to the competition by parishioners, including well-known folk artists. In many cases, a palm has to be carried by a few men, because its construction must be very strong to maintain stability and verticality. The Easter palm competition in Łyse is one of the bigger folklore attractions of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship.
Why do Kurpie people feel such a need to reach the sky with an Easter palm? According to the custom, high palms should ensure “long life, robust children and good harvest”. Apart from the religious meaning of joy and triumph referring to the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, Easter palms symbolise resurrection, fertility and good harvest in springtime. The richer and higher the palm, the better the prophecy for its holder. Contemporary palms are decorated most often with flowers from coloured tissue paper, green plants and ribbons. Some of them contain also traditional “herbs”: boxwood, club mosses and blueberry.
Authors of palms submitted to the competition are obliged to participate in a procession, which is a unique manifestation of the approaching Easter every year. For this reason, hundreds of tourists visit Łyse on Palm Sunday, because this is a special opportunity to see crowds of Kurpie people in folk costumes and Kurpie palms towering grandly over the crowd. This gives the possibility of extremely festive participation in Palm Sunday.
The competition has been organised for 50 years and is a prestigious event for competitors, and winning the first place means high prestige, too. On that day, apart from the rivalry of palms, there is also an opportunity to see performances of Kurpie folklore bands, presentations of circles of country housewives, and a folk art fair combined with the presentation of regional publications and the promotion of agrotourist farms.
The competition is divided into a few categories, and each competitor must leave his palm at the organisers’ disposal in order to receive a prize. After the competition, palms are used for decorating the church until next Easter or are submitted to exhibitions. The last year’s palms that have not been submitted to museums or cultural centres are burnt down in front of the temple on next year’s Holy Saturday during the Holy Triduum celebrations. New palms have already been brought to church by that time – ritual activities are repetitive and mesh together. Kurpie people have the strength to keep creating new things – they have no regrets about old things and the weaving of a several metres long palm that exists only “for a while” is not a waste of time for them. This unusual predisposition means that Kurpie are able to accept the passage of time by creating unsustainable flowers, paper-cuts or palms that require much work. This is a peculiar ritual Kurpie expression of “Carpe diem”.