Holidays in Poland
Submitted 6 years 9 months ago by CultureWhiz.
Catholic religious holidays are widely observed in Poland. Stores, malls, and restaurants are likely to be closed or have very limited business hours on Easter, All Saints Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas.
On the Saturday before Easter, churches offer special services in anticipation of the holiday, including blessing of food; children especially like to attend these services, bringing small baskets of painted eggs and candy to be blessed. On Easter Sunday itself, practising Catholics go to the morning mass, followed by a celebratory breakfast made of foods blessed the day before. On Easter Sunday, shops, malls, and restaurants are commonly closed.
On Easter Monday (Wielkanoc, Niedziela Wielkanocna), prepared to get wet! On Śmigus Dyngus day people douse strangers with water. This symbolizes cleansing and rebirth. It's the day of an old tradition with pagan roots: groups of kids and teens wandering around, looking to soak each other with water. Often groups of boys will try to catch groups of girls, and vice versa; but innocent passers-by are not exempt from the game, and are expected to play along. Common 'weapons' include water guns and water balloons, but children, especially outdoors and in the countryside, like to use buckets and have no mercy on passers-by. (Drivers - this means keep your windows wound up or you're likely to get soaked.)
The Polish also celebrate St. John’s Eve on the Summer Solstice with bonfires; the holiday day is about purification. St. Jude is revered, as well, as he symbolized the Underground movement of Nazi-occupied Poland in World War II. Like Christmas, it is primarily a meaningful Christian holiday.
The Feast of Corpus Christi, another moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, or sixty days after Easter. It is celebrated across the country; in smaller locations virtually the whole village or town becomes involved in a procession, and all traffic is stopped as the procession weaves its way through the streets. Corpus Christi is a major holy day of obligation, and most stores will close.
Constitution Day falls on 3 May, in remembrance of the Constitution of 3 May 1791. The document itself was a highly progressive attempt at political reform, and it was Europe's first constitution (and world's second, after the US). Following the partitions, the original Constitution became a highly poignant symbol of national identity and ideals. Today, 3 May is a national holiday, often combined with the 1 May (Labour Day) into a larger celebration.
All Saints Day (Wszystkich Świętych) falls on 1 Nov. In the afternoon people visit graves of their relatives and light candles. After dusk cemeteries glow with thousands of lights and offer a very picturesque scene. If you have the chance, be sure to visit a cemetery to witness the holiday. Many restaurants, malls, and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual on this holiday.
National Independence Day (Narodowe Święto Niepodległości) is a public holiday celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate Poland's independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions and occupation by Austria, Prussia and Russia. As with other holidays, most businesses will be closed on this day.
Christmas Eve (Wigilia) and Christmas (Boże Narodzenie) are celebrated on December 24th, 25th and 26th. Christmas is one of the most important holidays of the year, and Christmas Eve is definitely the year's most important feast. According to Catholic tradition, celebration of liturgical feasts starts in the evening of the preceding day (a vigil, hence wigilia). In Polish folklore, this translates into a special family dinner, which traditionally calls for a twelve course meatless meal (representing the twelve apostles), which is supposed to begin after the first evening star can be spotted in the night sky. On Christmas Eve most stores will close around 2-3pm; on both Christmas Days people will still usually stay home, and everything apart from essential services will be closed. Public transport will be severely limited, although less so on the Second Day of Christmas.
New Year's Eve (Sylwester), 31 December is one of the party nights of the year. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you can get into even a decent club, as most clubs will be packed. Most clubs will sell tickets in advance, but you'll probably have to dish out at least PLN150 just for entrance and maybe a couple of drinks. If you're a little more flexible, you might be able to get into non-club parties. Otherwise, there are always the firework displays to entertain you.