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
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.
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.
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.
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.