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Carnival in Poland
 
Winter kulig

Poland has a rich carnival tradition of parties and entertainment before the beginning of Lent. In the old days it was a period of active socializing in Poland. During the carnival, entertainment included hunting, weddings, balls and masquerades. Not only gentry, but the city and village common folks enjoyed themselves during carnival. The company not only ate, drank and danced, but also sang songs, sometimes with quite frivolous lyrics. There were no special carnival delicacies. Only among cakes there were carnival Faworki (chrust) and great amounts of pączki (doughnuts) are still consumed throughout the country on the last Thursday (so-called “Fat Thursday”) of the carnival. In the villages the young farmhands went around with a wooden cock on a cart, obtaining cheese, butter, bacon, kielbasa and eggs from the girls. In the end they organized a merry feast from the collected food, along with drinks. Carnival came to an end on Ash Wednesday. All good food was forsaken and żur (sour soup made from white borsch) and herring were eaten instead

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The Drowning of Marzanna - Spring Welcome Festival
 
Marzanna

The Drowning of Marzanna is a traditional folk fest in Poland, besides in some parts of Poland is quite popular Burning of Marzanna, it depends on choice. The 2 festivals are to symbolically welcome the spring and bury the winter. The ritual involves burning of a straw mannequin representing Marzanna. Although nowadays it has no more religious meaning there are apparent Slavic roots of this fest, which makes the tradition attractive. Children in Polish Kindergartens and in incipient years of Primary school are always preparing Marzanna. Marzanna becomes a hag when winter hits, she slowly dies off. In winter, the sun's rays are not so strong. The drowning / burning of Marzanna is a representation of the sun's rebirth, how it comes back, it's rays stronger, melting snow and bringing in spring, life.

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Polish Easter traditions
 
Pisanki

The celebration of Easter is preceded by Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday. In the Catholic Church Palm Sunday (Niedziela Palmowa) is celebrated to commemorate the triumphant entering of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Palm Sunday celebration is always held on the Sunday before Easter. People bring palms to church to be blessed during mass. Since real palms are not indigenous to Poland, Poles have followed old tradition of cutting whatever greenery can be found in the fields and use that to represent the palms. In the northern Mazovia region, the “palms” brought to church are often made of pussy willow branches that are in bloom. In other parts of Poland, palms have taken on other forms. People make their palms of evergreen branches that remained green throughout the winter. This greenery is attached to a pole or branch and then carried to church. Polish palms are till today tall and magnificent - sometimes reaching up to 8 m (25 feet).

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Polish folk art - Paper Cutout / Wycinanki
 
paper wycinanka

Paper cutout - wycinanki (pronounced Vee-chee-non-key) / Polish folk art paper cutouts are known through out the world as a beautiful craft. They have a distinctive look, and are made by hand in rural Poland. Multiple layers of coloured paper are folded, cut, and sometimes embossed to create stylized patterns. The complexity of the designs is created by repeating symmetrical patterns and folk motifs inspired by nature and geometric shapes. Folk Paper Cutouts come in different sizes. Wycinanki became a popular folk craft in the mid-1800's and were used by Polish peasants to decorate the walls of ceiling beams in countryside cottages and they were given as gifts to family members and friends.

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Ivan Kupala Day
 
Kupala Day

Ivan Kupala Day (John the Baptist Day Polish: Noc Kupały or Noc Świętojańska or Sobótka) is celebrated on 24 June. The name of this holiday combines the words "Ivan", the Slavic name of John (the Baptist), and "Kupala", a word derived from the Slavic word for bathing, as it was the first day of the year when the church sanctioned bathing and swimming in rivers and ponds, though the term is also consistent with John's baptizing people through full immersion in the water. For the followers of Slavic Religion many rites of this holiday are connected with water, fertility and autopurification. The girls would float their flower garlands on the water of rivers and tell their fortunes from their movement. Youths and girls would jump over the flames of bonfires. There is an ancient belief that the Eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when the ferns are blooming. Whoever finds a fern flower would become rich and lucky. Hence, on that night village folk would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs.

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Imieniny (Name day)
 
greetings

If you have ever seen a Polish calendar, you may have noticed that each day of the year has a name on it. Names appear on almost every Polish calendar and indicate what is called imieniny or “name day”, the feast day of the saint for whom you are named. (In Catholicism as well as in Russian Orthodoxy, each day of the year is devoted to one or more saints.) A predominantly catholic country, Poles celebrate their imieniny, rather than their birthdays (urodziny). The word imieniny comes from the noun imię, which means “name”. The names listed on the calendar are in a special grammatical form called the “Genitive case”. When used on a calendar, this form is understood to mean “(the day) of Marta” or “(the day) of Robert”. By looking at the last letter of the name on the calendar, you can recognize which names are masculine (those ending in -a or -ego) and which names are feminine (those ending in -y or -i).

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All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2)
 
Zaduszki in Polish cemetery

The tradition of Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints’ Day) and Dzień Zaduszny or Zaduszki (All Souls’ Day) began in the first centuries of Christianity. Today, it is an important holiday in many countries that are predominantly Catholic. All Saints’ Day has been designated by the Roman Catholic Church as the day to pray for the Saints of the church. All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer for all who have died. In Poland the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. Beginning on November 1st and throughout the following week, cemeteries are filled with people, flowers, and thousands of candles (znicze). These special candles can burn anywhere from 24 hours to a week, depending on their size. At night, during the week following All Saints’ Day, they give the cemeteries of Poland a glow that can be seen from many kilometers away.

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Katarzynki i Andrzejki
 
pouring hot wax

The Eve of St. Catherine (November 24) and St. Andrew (November 29)

The feasts of St. Catherine (Katarzynki November 24) and St. Andrew (Andrzejki November 29) were devoted to love and marriage. On the night of Katarzynki bachelors could learn about their future wife and on the night of Andrzejki maidens could find out who would be their husband. As a day of fortune-telling for boys, Katarzynki has almost disappeared from Polish culture. Andrzejki, however, has remained a day of fun, games and fortune telling for girls and boys alike. St. Catherine of Alexandria was the patron saint of bachelors looking for wives; it was believed that she that could tell them who was the best candidate for a wife (especially on the eve of her feast day). How St. Andrew became associated with fortune-telling for girls is unclear; maybe it was because he was considered the patron of marriageable, virtuous, religious maidens. It is possible that the date of the feast was a deciding factor in this tradition. The feast of St. Andrew ends the church year and brings in the advent season (a season for the preparation of Christmas) in the Catholic Church.

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Polish Christmas traditions
 
Christmas dinner

Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia! That is the way to say "Merry Christmas" in Polish. Among Poles, wherever they are, the most beloved and beautiful of all traditional festivities is that of Christmas Eve. It is then that the Wigilia, or Christmas Eve Dinner is served. It is a solemnly celebrated occasion and arouses deep feelings of kinship among family members. For Poles, Christmas Eve is a time of family gathering and reconciliation. It's also a night of magic: Animals are said to talk in a human voice and people have the power to tell the future. The belief was born with our ancestors who claimed that Dec. 24 was a day to mark the beginning of a new era. It was bolstered by sayings such as, "As goes Christmas Eve, goes the year." Hoping for a good 12 months, everyone was polite and generous to one another and forgave past grievances.

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