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Polish Traditions Through the Year

Poland's Traditional Holidays, Festivals, Feasts, and Celebrations

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Polish traditions through the year include holidays, customs, superstitions, rituals, and celebrations. Some are firmly rooted in the the national religion, Catholicism; others stem from pagan rites of seasons. In many cases, visitors to Poland can participate or learn more about these traditions. Seasonal markets and holiday fairs expose travelers to Polish culture and hospitality, restaurants serve up Polish cuisine, and souvenir shops maintain a steady stock of folk crafts and handmade art.

This article deals with customs and traditions. Looking for information about when the country's holidays fall? Look no further than this list of Poland's holidays.

New Year's Day Traditions

Krakow Philharmonic
CC BY-NC-ND bildungsr0man

Though many Poles use January first to quietly usher in the New Year after December 31st revelries have dwindled and guests have gone home, January 1st is often a day for concerts. For example, if you travel to Krakow in January, the Philharmonic performs a year-opening concert, and carols can be heard in churches.

Drowning of Marzanna

Marzanna Effigy
CC BY Magic Madzik

This pagan farewell-to-winter tradition occurs on Death Sunday, before Easter. An effigy of Marzanna, the goddess of the winter seasons, is taken to the riverbank and thrown in the water. Participants watch her "drown"; with the passing of Marzanna, the ills of winter are forgotten and spring can return with warm weather and natural bounty.

Easter

Polish Easter Eggs
iStockphoto/Oliaa

In Poland, Easter traditions are both symbolic and fun. Blessed food, decorated eggs, church services, Easter palms, and seasonal markets help to mark this springtime celebration of faith, joy, treasured customs, food, and family.

Juwenalia

Juwenalia in Poznan
CC BY Milosz1

Juwenalia is a student festival that occurs in May or early June. This event is marked by colorful parades, contests, games, and parties. Juwenalia is an annually anticipated event and has its roots in medieval times.

Wianki

Wianki Wreath in Warsaw
CC BY Magic Madzik

Wianki is a pagan festival honoring the midsummer solstice. Krakow's Wianki celebrations are second to none, and they include concerts by big-name performers, fireworks displays, and an annual market.

All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day Poland
CC BY-NC-SA bflickr

All Saints' Day is accompanied by the beautiful tradition of decorating cemeteries with thousands of glowing candles. On this night, the worlds of the living and the dead come closer to one another. Poles honor their deceased family and friends with memories, church services, and, of course, the flickering candles that brighten graveyards all over Poland on November 1st.

St. Andrew's Day in Poland

Molten Wax
iStockphoto/WLDavies

Andrzejki, or St. Andrew's Day, is a traditional holiday that occurs on November 29th. It's an evening of superstition and fortune telling. On this night, young women can predict who they'll meet and fall in love with!

Advent

Advent in Poland
CC BY-NC-ND antoni.katowice

Advent helps to prepare Poles for Christmas through fasting, prayer, and church services. During this time, a special mass, called roraty, is held for church-goers.

Mikolaj's Visit

Mikolaj, the Polish Santa Claus
CC BY-NC-ND antoni.katowice

Mikolaj, the Polish Santa, visits children on December 6th, during Advent church services, or on Christmas Eve. He brings children small gifts to reward them for good behavior, but he may also remind them not to be naughty by including a switch with their presents.

Christmas

Christmas in Poznan, Poland
iStockphoto/remik44992

Christmas is a magical time in Poland during which animals are said to speak and forgiveness offered to those who have offended. The Christmas Eve feast, known as Wigilia, is shared by family members. The day after Christmas, Poles observe St. Stephan's Day, which extends the Christmas celebrations.

New Year's Eve

Fireworks in Krakow
iStockphoto/irekkrak
New Year's Eve in Poland is like New Year's Eve in other parts of Europe. Individuals host parties, attend private events, or head to city squares for fireworks extravaganzas and concerts.
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