Wroclaw, Poland. Photo © Mariia Golovianko/Shutterstock.com

Celebrating The Religious And The National Holidays in Poland

Piotr Obiegły

Piotr Obiegły is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Poland).
Piotr is also a Professional Translator at Evanthel Translations

Latest posts by Piotr Obiegły (see all)

Poland, a beautiful country located in Central Europe, has a number of wonderful traditions, holidays, and celebrations.  Around ninety percent of Polish people are Christians.  That’s why most of the holidays in Poland are celebrated in a very religious way.  Some of these traditions include – giving away gifts to other people, and simply wishing everyone good luck.  So let’s review our most common holidays, to see how exactly they are celebrated in Poland!

Christmas Eve

This is the most highly anticipated day on the calendar, as well as the most joyful one, in Poland.  It is the time of the reunion with all of our family members, the time that we spend in the company of our loved ones.  The tradition says that there should be exactly twelve dishes on the table, including a carp.  Under the dishes, and the tablecloth, Poles would normally place a piece of hay, which is said to bring good luck.

Another tradition involves giving everyone a piece of carp scale, that they are supposed to carry in their wallets for the entire year.  This is said to bring wealth to the people who agree to carry this amulet.

Swapping a piece of wafer in PolandBefore Poles sit down to enjoy their Christmas Eve’s dinner, it is mandatory to wish everyone, whether there are 5 or 40 people, good luck and to swap a piece of wafer with each one of them.  Singing carols are also very popular in Poland during this holiday.  Undoubtedly, the most awaited time by every child comes right after the Christmas dinner, when everyone can finally open their presents.

New Year’s Day

This day is celebrated in Poland pretty much the same, as in all the other World countries.  Like in most countries – it also involves the New Year’s resolutions and promises.  In Poland, it is also popular to put on an annual fireworks show.  During this particular night, it’s practically impossible to get any sleep, because of the constant noise from the bright explosions in the sky.  There is also a customary New Year Eve’s party held in every town-hall or a restaurant.

National Day of Remembrance of the “Exiled Soldiers”

This day commemorates all the Polish soldiers who fought during the World War II.  Especially those who didn’t surrender and continued fighting with the Soviet Union forces, even after they lost the war.  This day has some controversy in Poland – some people say that it should be cancelled.

On this day, every school holds a special history lesson about the topic, and many official delegates visit the graves of the perished soldiers.  There is always an official speech made on television by the president of Poland. Nowadays the importance of this day is a bit misunderstood, due to the abundance of the patriotic symbols of the Exiled Soldiers, painted on T-shirts, and other pieces of clothing.

Easter 

Preparation for the Easter begins a long way before the actual holiday arrives.  Kids, along with their parents, start to get ready by painting some eggs with various colors, using only the natural ingredients.  These colorful Easter eggs are then placed on the table and in the windows of everyone’s home.  One is also required to bring the eggs in a traditional basket inside the church on the Easter day, together with bread, meat, sugar, cookies, and a sheep’s butter.  Inside the church a priest would hallow the baskets – which is believed to bring abundance of food for the entire year.  On this day both kids and adults consume a lot of eggs.  Eggs are the symbol of Christ’s Life and Resurrection.

Easter, PolandOn the second day of Easter, which is also a free day in Poland, Poles celebrate the “Smigus-Dyngus”.  It is an old tradition that dates back to the pagan times.  During this day, kids pour water on everyone around.  It is also popular to be awakened from a shot of a water gun.  On the streets outside, it is a bit less popular, though every year many officials and some neatly-dressed people come back home in a wet suit.

Constitution Day 

In Poland – people celebrate the day when the May Constitution was signed into law.  It was the first democratic constitution in Europe, and the second one in the entire world.  On this day, the school children are obliged to dress nicely, and many of them have white and red cotillions attached to their jackets.  Also, in many schools there is a ceremonial gathering that is often held.  This day is similar to the Independence Day, though it is a bit less ritualistic.

National Memorial Day of the Warsaw Uprising

This day is celebrated every year on the 1st of August.  It’s the day of remembrance of all the civilians who took part in the Warsaw Uprising, and fought with the German forces in Warsaw, for many months.  The goal of the uprising was to defeat the German army, and to meet the approaching Soviet Union’s fighters, as the defenders of Warsaw.

Celebrating the National Independence Day, Poland

Photo © De Visu/Shutterstock.com

On this day, Poles usually light up votive candles on the graves of the soldiers, to remember the civilians and the fighters, who would often go down even to the city sewers, to fight for the freedom of their country.  Each year there is a staging of various fights, commemorating the Uprising, where the officials of Warsaw often make a moving speech.

All Saints’ Day

This day is celebrated on the 1st of November every year.  It is a sad day, but it is also a free day from work in Poland.  On this day, we visit the graves of our dead relatives.  This is the day of reflection and prayers.  Notably, this particular day is never sunny and it usually rains all day long, almost every year.  On this holiday, all the family members gather around the graves, to reminisce the old days, and to think about the meaning of life.

Independence Day

This day is dedicated to the important moment in history, when Poland finally gained its independence after 123 years of oppression, partition, and the devastation of the World War I.  On this day, no one goes to work, apart from the emergency service workers.  In every school, a ceremonial speech is held, and everyone is dressed to the occasion.

In many cities, students follow a tradition of gathering together in the old town square, with the red and white balloons (our national colors) in hand.  In the capital city of Poland, Warsaw – there is a military parade held annually.

Independence Day Poland

Photo © De Visu/Shutterstock.com

This is the day of immense gratitude to the fighters, who gave up their lives for the freedom of Poland.  In many schools – teachers, along with the students, would visit the old city cemeteries, to light up some votive candles on the graves of the soldiers.  Specifically, in Warsaw – there’s a tradition to do it on the grand and symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

As you can see, Poland has some very interesting and wonderful traditions behind every national, as well as religious holiday.  Poland is definitely a country that is worth visiting, with its old history, notable monuments, and its fascinating, folk traditions.  I definitely encourage you to visit Poland, and to spend at least a few days here – to feel this special atmosphere, that the country preserves and gladly shares with its visitors.

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The Religious And The National Holidays in Poland - Global Storybook

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