Our nation is amazing in some respects. We are strongly attached to our customs, we enjoy feasting and celebrating. We are also good at safeguarding old traditions. It is particularly manifested in the way we celebrate holidays, especially church holidays – Corpus Christi, Easter, Christmas (used to be known as Godne Święta, which is something like Dignify Holidays) and All Saints’ Day.
Christmas Eve supper
First of all we should account for the phenomenon of Christmas Eve supper which is celebrated in almost every household, during which family members share the holy wafer with each other. This evening is considered as the most important day of the year when household members sit down to the supper with strong belief that Jesus Christ – the Savior was born this evening. It is a moment of joy and reverie at the same time. There are few public holiday celebrations among which I can mention Polish Independence Day (that commemorates the regaining of independence in 1918), May 3rd Constitution Day (the constitution enacted in 1791). Those days are official days off.
There are also another kind of holidays celebrated in Poland. Despite they are less popular, still they draw attention of many people. It is all about St. Andrew’s Day – the day when people have their last opportunity to have a party before the Advent begins. The most characteristic for this holiday are traditional fortune-telling activities performed by merrymakers, among which the most popular one is dropping hot wax in water and telling fortunes based on the shape formed out of hot wax. For that people want to see what might happen to them next year.
Grandmother’s Day, Grandfather’s Day, Children’s Day (those names do not require explanation) or Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly known as just Valentine’s Day, held on February 14. This is a holiday of all lovers who give presents to each other and express their feelings in the most peculiar ways. A Womens’ Day (established in People’s Republic of Poland) is slowly becoming forgotten as it might seem.
All Saints’ Day and Halloween
The process of assimilating particular holidays of western culture is rather slow, but the celebration of overseas holidays, especially American ones, which was introduced in Poland in 1990’, becomes more popular every year. Halloween which is held on October 31, the day before All Saints’ Day. This holiday has its roots in celtic rites, when it was thought that the boundary between the world of the living and the the world of the dead became blurred. For that good noble souls were invited to houses, whereas evil spirits were cast aside. Probably a contemporary custom of dressing up monster costumes derives from this practice . There are 3 more traditions celebrated in our country which should be mentioned yet.
The first one is drowning Marzanna. The custom which is fading away or simply becoming less popular when compared to other traditions. Marzanna is a symbol of winter, snow, diseases and all evil. That’s why the custom of burning and drowning Marzanna effigy brought joy and hope that spring would come fast. Nowadays this customs is usually practiced by children only.
Another tradition, I want to mention about, is Dyngus Day also known as Wet Monday. Originally this Slavic custom meant whipping each other with birch twigs and throwing water at each other which used to symbolize the spring cleansing.
New Year’s Eve
The last but not least tradition is about leaving behind the old year and welcoming the incoming year. Only in XIX century it was not as popular as nowadays. When the clock strucks midnight we welcome the New Year launching fireworks. Full with New Year’s resolutions, we enter the New Year wishing “Do siego roku” (which means more or less “A happy, healthy New Year”) to everyone.