One of the most important celebrations in Poland during the year is All Saints’ Day. As in many other countries in the world, there is a special day of the year to remember the ones that are not longer with us. In the case of Poland, million of Poles will go back to their villages, towns or cities of origin to commemorate their loved ones.
Celebrating All Saints’ Day in Poland
The 1st of November is a bank holiday in Poland, which means that there will not be commercial activities (except from the sale of candles and flowers), and all the highways and roads will have heavy traffic during this day. Inside the big cities, like Warsaw or Krakow, it might be possible that the public transportation might change due to the amount of people that is visiting the cemeteries.
Visiting The Polish Cemeteries
The main tradition of All Saint’s Day in Poland is to visit the cemeteries where your beloved ones are resting. During the day it is really common that in the cemeteries there will be people starting to decorate the graves with flowers and candles. There are also religious masses at certain time of the day. This tradition of visiting cemeteries is also common in the Mexican tradition known as The Day of The Dead.
During the night the cemeteries will glow with thousands of candles, it is worth it to go to the Polish cemeteries just to see the beauty of those places. Certainly, it is an unique opportunity to think, and meditate.
The special candles that are used can burn for many hours and they are placed with the idea that the departed souls can find their way through the darkness.
During the night on the 1st of November, the cemeteries can be seen glowing from long distances, especially if you are in the middle of a freeway.
How Poles celebrate All Saints’ Day
All Saints’ Day in Poland might be considered as a sad day by many foreigners, in comparison with the United States when they celebrate Halloween, or the Mexican celebration and parades that we have during this day. But, the All Saints’ Day in Poland is a day when families are together, there is the possibility to spend time with the ones you love knowing that tomorrow you might not be in this world anymore. In my opinion, this day is one of the best traditions to live in Poland.
Polish people have the conviction that after the death, not everything dies inside us. And by turning on the candles the shadows of the dead will walk away from the cemeteries. It is also believed that churches are filled with souls on this day, but the living people are not allowed to watch the dead, and those souls who broke this rule would be punished in a really bad way.
One of the most famous superstition that Poles believes during this day is if there is bad weather on the 1st of November, it means that next year will be a year of death.
Zaduszki is a word that can be translated as the day of the prayer for souls or the All Souls’ Day. Zaduszki is celebrated by many catholics around the world on the 2nd of November, but it is not a bank holiday in Poland. Zaduszki is the main holiday commemorating the dead for Slavic Catholics.
In Poland, it was believed that during the days of Zaduszki, the souls of deceased relatives and friends visited their old homes so they would warm themselves and they would take the special meals prepared for them.
The ritual of Zaduszki was quite impressive and really curious. Polish people cleaned and prepared their houses by covering the floor with sand. They also prepared a bench and it was placed right in the center of the house, in the bench people put water, a towel and a comb! but why? …they believe that the souls could wash themselves and comb their hair for one more time. In order to allow the souls enter into the house, people left the main door and the windows open for the whole night.
All Saints’ Day in Poland is a great tradition that you must experience at least once in your life. When you are walking across the cemeteries it is really emotive to see all those children and adults visiting the ones that left us in this world.