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History of Christmas Trees in general [Click Here]
Polish Holidays & Celebrations
Dozynki - Harvest Celebration
The traditional gathering for a harvest celebration. September or October.
General background information on Dozynki [Click Here]
In Toledo this annual celebration is hosted by the Toledo-Poznań Alliance [Click Here]
Feast of Greenery (Matki Boskiej Zielnej) September 8
Some places celebrate on August 15 the Assumption, also the date of the Miracle on the Vistula
Herbs, vegetables, and other greenery sometimes interwoven with a few flowers from the fields and gardens, are brought to Church and are blessed by the priest. Kept in the home throughout the year, the herbs are brewed and used for medicinal purposes for humans and livestock.
More on the Miracle that saved Poland and western civilization. [Click Here]
Pułaski Day Uniquely Polish-American
Father of the American Cavalry. Gave his life at Savannah, Georgia for American independence. October 11.
A Tribute to Casimir Pułaski [Click Here]
End of partitions - November 11.
About Polish Independence Day [Click Here}
More about Independence Day [Click Here]
Send an Independence Day E-card [Click Here]
Once the largest empire in Europe, Poland ceased to exist for 123 years
Partitions of Poland[Click Here]
First Partition[Click Here]
Second Partition[Click Here]
Third Partition[Click Here]
Józef Piłsudski [Click Here] Ignacy Paderewski [Click Here]
All Souls Day (Zaduszki)
Millions of candles, flowers and wreathes on the evening visit to our departed's resting place. Most traveled day in Poland. November 2. The day after All Saints.
More on Zaduszki [Click Here]
St. Andrzejki Day Rituals
This is a special time for young Polish girls who want to find a husband. On this night and the next day, fortunes are told and the results are not taken lightly. November 29.
More on the rituals [Clcik Here]
St. Barbara's (Patron of Miners) Feast - Miner's Day
Although there is no caste system, Poland miners traditionally have been elevated to a special social station of their own. Not only for the Feast of St. Barbara, but also for weddings, funerals and other important political or social ceremonies, miners wear an especially smart looking black uniform adorned with red feathers. December 4.
More on St. Barbara [Clcik Here]
St. Nicholas Day (Św. Mikołaj)
Traditionally, Christmas trees are not displayed until they are put up on Christmas Eve Day, and Jolly St. Nick brought the kids presents on his namesake day, December 6th. This takes crass commercialism out of the Holy Day of Christmas.
The Vigil & Christmas Eve Supper (Wigilia)
Sharing of Opłatek and leaving an empty chair open at the table for a wayward stranger or Christ Himself if He decides to drop in. Kids watch for the evening star, when it's spotted the traditionally meatless 12-course meal is served. After, presents are exchanged.
The custom in more detail [Click Here]
After Wigilia comes midnight Mass - Pasterka, which means the Shepherds Watch, and there is popular belief in Poland that while the congregation is praying, peace descends on the snow-clad earth and that during that holy night, the humble companions of men - the domestic animals - assume voices. But only the innocent of heart may hear them.
Midnight Mass - the Koledy, the Creche, the Shepard's Watch [Click Here]
Christmas Day (Boże Narodzenie)
The Christmas Day, called the first holiday by the Poles, is spent with family at home. There is no visiting, no cleaning, no cooking on that day, only previously cooked food is heated. While many people in the U.S. spend a great deal of time on Christmas Day cooking in their Showcase custom kitchens, Polish families spend the day together.
Elaborate Nativity Scenes in Poland [Click Here]
Choinka (Polish Christmas Trees) [Click Here]
St. Stephen's Day
St. Stephen's Day is known as the second holiday. This is a day for visiting and expressing Christmas greetings. And when night begins to fall, you can hear stamping and jingling, and singing outside. These are carolers--Herody, who began their wandering from home to home. Herody is a popular form of caroling and usually done by twelve young boys. St. Stephen was venerated as patron of horses. In parts of Poland St. Stephen’s martyrdom was honored by tossing oats at the priest after Mass on December 26th, an imitation of the first Christian martyr's stoning to death.
More information regarding St. Stephen's Day [click Here]
New Year's Eve Day (Sylwester)
In the country, New Year's Eve day has traditionally been an occasion to commit pranks of all kinds. It was not unusual for the village jokesters to disassemble somebody's wagon and reassemble it on the roof of a house.
New Year's Eve (Sylwester)
New Year's Eve in the city is celebrated at more or less formal balls always beginning with a polonaise. More on Sylwester [Click Here]
Three Kings (Trzech Króli)
The initials K M B for Kaspar, Melchior and Baltazer, with a cross between them, are written in chalk at the top of entrance doors of Polish homes. Also the day the Christmas tree comes down. January 12.
Three Wise Men [Click Here]
Kulig (Sleigh Rides)
Kulig, is a festive sleigh ride and singing songs to the rhythm of the jingle bells.
Candlemass Day ~ Purification of the Virgin
Marks the end to the Polish Christmas Season - February 2. Learn about the significance of this day [Click Here] [Then Click Here]
The time is reserved to tighten the bonds of friendship and to maintain contact with loved ones, usually through various rituals of partying subject to regional variation.
The last six days of Carnival from Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday) to Shrove Tuesday. Major partying everywhere.
More information regarding Zapusty [Click Here]
Fat Thursday & Herring Night (Tłusty Czwartek & Śledzik in Poland)
Poland has its own version of the French Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), known locally as Tłusty Czwartek, or Fat Thursday. With Lent forbidding sweets and treats, Fat Thursday is a similar celebration of glutinous indulgence as in other Catholic countries, but with an early jump, and instead of parading and partying the Poles queue up in lines that sometimes stretch around the corner in order to purchase pastries from the local cukiernia, or bakery.
Poland’s favorite pastries, particularly on Fat Thursday, are pączki - large deep-fried doughnuts typically filled with rose jam (or other marmalades), glazed with sugar, and sometimes toped with candied orange peel.
Another Fat Thursday favorite are faworki also called chrusciki as in meaning brittle. In America they are often called angel wings. They are thin dough ribbons, fried until crispy and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The number of these baked goods consumed annually on Fat Thursday is truly astronomical, but you can buy them any day of the year in most bakeries.
The day before Lent actually begins also has its own traditions. The Tuesday following Fat Thursday and the day before Ash Wednesday is the last day before the Wielki Post (Great Fast) begins. It is the day that marks the end of the Karnawal (Carnival) period, which in many other countries is the day people will celebrate before the forty days of fasting and religious observance should begin. In Poland this is known as Śledzik (literally Herring Night) and you'll find the traditional pickled herring washed down with shots of vodka in many homes, bars and restaurants. Be warned this can get messy despite the fact most people are supposed to be at work or university the following day. Shrove Tuesday (Pączki Day in America)
Day of indulgence, which, in ancient times, permitted pantries to be cleared of foods restricted during the fast like eggs and lard.
More information regarding Pączki Day [Click Here]
Ash Wednesday (Popielec)
You stayed up partying on Shrove Tuesday - Herring was your first meal after midnight. At the break of dawn you got your ashes.
What's the Ashes all about? [Click Here]
Lent (Wielki Post)
First day of Lent - "kocanki" or "bazie" (willow branches) are cut and placed in water. While Groundhog Day is a prognosticator of winter's end in America, Poles believe their buds opening in a few days, is a good omen for fair and mild spring. Because of the obvious climatic conditions traditionally these willow twigs are used on Palm Sunday as "palms" to be blessed in the church. They are then taken home and placed by the holy picture of the Blessed Mother, and remain the entire year.
Dzien Świetego Józefa
A dispensation from the rigors of Lent on March 19.
More information regarding St. Joseph's Day [Click Here]
Back to Lent
Pisanki - On Palm Sunday girls begin gathering eggs, which they painstakingly decorate to become "pisanki" (artistic masterpieces) noted for their intricate designs. Palm Sunday, celebrated in churches across the country to commemorate Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In Poland pussy willow branches were more available than topical palms in days gone by.
Matins are observed in churches on Wednesday of the Holy Week. After each psalm is sung, candlelight is extinguished to signify the sorrow over the torture of Christ.
On Thursday of the Holy Week, comes the ceremonial washing of the feet of twelve impoverished old men at the church, in memory of the Last Supper.
Holy Saturday (Swięconka)
Blessing of Easter baskets. Lent may end Saturday at noon, but fasting is observed until Resurrection Mass. The church bells silenced on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, are now rung on Saturday at midnight in noisy celebration heralding the risen Lord.
Details of the basket, blessing and symbolic contents [Click Here]
Easter Day (Wielkanoc)
The Easter table is covered with a white tablecloth. It is typically customary to have a roasted pig's head decked with flowers, ham, veal and kielbasa. In the middle of the table is a lamb shaped cake. The blessed eggs, the symbol of life, are sliced into pieces, and each person takes a piece of egg wishing each other good health, prosperity, and happiness
More about Polish Easter [Click Here]
Śmigus - dyngus
Easter Monday. All hell breaks loose. Mieszko I is baptized this day making Poland a Christian country in 966AD. Boys douse girls with water. On Tuesday the girls get their revenge usually with switches.
More on Dyngus Day [Click Here]
Just because women are women. March 8.
Constitution Day (Konstytucja Trzeciego Maja)
What trouble you get when you ratify the second Democracy in the modern world and end up partitioned for 123 years because your neighboring countries are autocratic totalitarians. May 3.
More on Constitution Day [Click Here]
Mother's Day (Dzien Matki)
Fixed date on May 26. Children prepare "laurki" (hand decorated cards) for their mothers.
Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało)
Feast day for the Eucharist and procession. 9th Thursday after Holy Week.
Father's Day (Dzien Ojca)
Rather than the third Sunday in June as customary in America, Poland has a fixed date celebration on June 23.
Sobótka (St. John's Eve)
A Midsummer's Night Eve. Maidens construct wianki (intricate wreathes) decorated with herbs and flowers. At dusk they launch them, candle lit, into the river hoping the boy who finds her wianki will ask for her hand. Bonfires smoke the crop fields for good luck in growing and harvest. Boys show off jumping over the flames. Fertility rites abound and the barren fern blooms this night for only a moment. Priests this night turn a blind eye to hanky-panky among the girls and boys. Summer solstice.
More on Sobótka [Click Here]
Mother Mary was transported into Heaven with her body and soul united. August 15.
Imieniny - Name Day
Check the date of your Name Day [Click Here]
Sto Lat! Don't forget to celebrate your birthday too!
Official Polish National Holidays
The national holidays include religious days celebrated by members of the Polish Roman Catholic Church and days celebrating historic events and purposes in Poland.
New Year (January 1) Nowy Rok (Nowy Rok) - In Poland this National Holiday is known as Sylwester. There are generally fireworks displays in cities around Poland.
Easter (March/April) pierwszy dzien Wielkiej Nocy (Niedziela Wielkanocna) - A religious as well as National Holiday. There are traditionally huge family gatherings.
Easter Monday Dyngus day (March/April) drugi dzien Wielkiej Nocy (Poniedzialek Wielkanocny)-
Flag Day (May 2) The Day of the Flag is celebrated on 2 May. On this day, Poles reflect upon the long history of the red and white national colors and proudly display flags outside their houses. The red and white colors were first recognized as national colors on 3 May 1792, on the first anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of 3 May.
On May 2nd Poland also celebrates the Day of Polish Diaspora and Poles Living Abroad. It has its origin in 2002, when the Polish Parliament (Sejm), established it in recognition of the achievements and contributions of Poles living abroad in regaining independence and helping the country in its most dire times. It is estimated that there are around 20 million people of Polish origin living outside the country.
Constitution Day (May 3) Swieto Narodowe Trzeciego Maja (Swieto Konstytucji Trzeciego Maja) - On this day, Poland celebrates the Constitution of 3 May, 1791 that was Europe's first codified constitution. See Constitution of May 3, 1791 Constitution of May 3, 1791
Pentecost Sunday (7th Sunday after Easter) pierwszy dzien Zielonych Swiatek (Zielone Swiatki) - Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts.
Corpus Christi (May/June) - A religious holiday. This feast is celebrated in the Latin Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to solemnly commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Feast of the Assumption ( August 15) - A religious holiday. The day that Catholics have long celebrated what is called the Dormition (falling asleep) or Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The Feast of the Assumption celebrates both the happy departure of Mary from this life, and her assumption bodily into heaven.
All Saint's Day (November 1) - On this National and religious Holiday, Polish people travel long distances to visit family graves.
National Independence Day (November 11)- Poland signed its historic constitution in 1791 but its independence was to be short-lived as invading forces partitioned the country between Russia, Prussia and Austria the following year. It was not until 11 November 1918 that Poland was to regain its independence. To this day, 11 November is an important civic holiday that is recognised throughout the country and is marked with patriotic parades and festivities in many of the larger towns and cities.
Christmas (December 25) - This is a day of religious celebration and family gatherings where the eating consumes the day. You can get some tractional Polish menus for foods that people put out on this National and Religious Holiday by going to Polish Recipes.
2nd day of Christmas St. Stephen's Day (December 25) drugi dzien Bozego Narodzenia - Commemorates St Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr.
* Under communist rule, the 1st of May was celebrated as Labour Day with government-endorsed parades, concerts and similar events. Following the 1989 changes, the Sejm decided to keep this day a public holiday but to give it the neutral name of State Holiday.
The 3rd of May was created Constitution Day, so that Poles now have two public holidays within one week. It is customary to bridge the gap by taking a day's leave on the 2nd. In the case that May 2nd is a Wednesday, many Poles can enjoy nine work-free days while using up only three days of leave. For example:
Saturday (weekend) on 28 April
The followings are other holidays in Poland without time off work:
March 13 - World's Day of Remembrance for Victims of Katyn Massacre; May 2 - Flag Day (formally: Flag of the Republic of Poland Day, Dzien Flagi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej), on the anniversary of Polish flag in the aftermath of the battle of Berlin, 1945; June 28 - (since 2005) Day of Remembrance of the Poznan June 1956, on the anniversary of the Poznan 1956 protests; August 28 - Day of Polish Airforce on the anniversary of victory of pilot Franciszek Zwirko and mechanic Stanislaw Wigura in Challenge 1932. Formerly: from 1918 to 1932 the anniversary of first Polish Airforce flight, 5 November, and during communist times, 23 August - first engagement by Polish airforce in the East; August 31 - Day of Solidarity and Freedom, on the anniversary of August Agreement from 1980; October 14 - Day of National Education (formerly Day of the Teacher), on the anniversary of the founding of the Komisja Edukacji Narodowej (Commission of National Education); October 16 - Day of Pope John Paul II.
Fat Thursday on the last Thursday before Lent.
Google Fat Thursday
See our Interactive Christmas page.
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for Toledo Polonians
As holidays come near listen to Melodies of Poland for informational segments on the significance and history of each Polish celebration.
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