Today, the 1st of November, Poles are exceptionally celebrating the All Saints’ Day – an important holiday for us.
On All Saints ‘Day and the next day (All Souls’ Day, November 2), Poles visit cemeteries to decorate the graves of their relatives with flowers and light candles. All Souls’ Day, for Latin Catholics and many other Christians, is a day of prayers for all faithful deceased.
It is a day off from work. This allows for visits to graves as well as family meetings at the graves of ancestors. It is a day of reflection on life. Masses are held at all cemeteries, attended by entire families. It is not uncommon for families to meet at home for dinner after Mass.
Polish cemeteries are exceptionally decorated, candles are lit everywhere in memory of those who have passed away. In the evening, the cemeteries take on incredible charm and atmosphere.
A special role in the past was played by the night of November 1-2, between the celebration of All Saints and All Souls ‘Day, known as All Souls’ Day. All over Poland, it was believed that that night, the souls of the dead, freed from purgatory, return to earth until dawn and wander along crossroads, cemeteries or wilderness – looking for help, prayer or sacrifice. In memory of this custom, there are still midnight meetings and prayers in some cemeteries, when November 1 ends and begins on November 2.
The largest and oldest Polish cemeteries are:
- Warszawskie Powązki in Warsaw – was founded in November 1790;
- Rakowicki Cemetery in Kraków – was established in the years 1800 – 1803;
- Cemeteries at Lipowa Street in Lublin – it is dated 1794;
- The Old Cemetery in Ostrów Wielkopolski – was one of the first Polish cemeteries, established in 1782;
We encourage our readers to visit Polish cemeteries today and tomorrow, as it can be an interesting experience.
Title photo copyright: Author: Granada, CC BY-SA 4.0