Halloween has not really made it to Poland yet. Which is fine with me. I mean, Halloween is OK and all, but it’s gotten kind of out of control in the USA, in my opinion, and become yet another Pinterest holiday that is fun for everyone but Mom.
But I digress. Here, the day afterwards, November 1st, or All Saint’s Day is the big deal, as it is in all Catholic countries. Since Poles are Catholic to the max, they take the holiday to the max with Zaduszki, which sort of combines All Saints with All Souls Day in a tradition dating from the 10th century.
I have seen a lot of decorated cemeteries in my travels, but never like this. Wow!
We visited Cmentarz Wilanowski, across the street from the Wilanow Palace yesterday afternoon. There were crowds of people busily scrubbing and sweeping tombs. (I would have taken photos of the action, but I didn’t want to seem disrespectful.) They were preparing the graves for today, November 1, when Polish families traditionally visit their deceased kinfolk. Everything is closed today, and the police are preparing for massive traffic jams along with a spike in accidents, as Poles travel countrywide to fulfill their obligation to the dead.
A large pop-up market outside the gate sold flowers, candles, and votive lanterns by the case. Because why light one candle, when a dozen will do?
By the time we left, the cemetery was glowing with lights. It was so pretty. I understand that by tonight some of the cemeteries will practically be visible from space. And the markets at the larger cemeteries will become virtual town fairs, selling everything from sausages to socks in addition to funerary offerings.
It’s a nice tradition to remember your loved ones on this day. It’s pretty clear who keeps it going, too. I saw more than one babcia giving very specific directions to a harassed-looking husband, or to younger family members who were on clean-up and decorating duty. Well, I guess if I thought that tomb might be my home before too long, I’d want to make sure people knew the proper way to take care of it, right?
As with everything in Warsaw, there is a historical element. Zaduszki is also a day to remember the millions of Poles who were killed during WWII, to whom monuments have been erected all over the city, including in the cemeteries.