Poland’s most surprising customs
Every country has its own superstitions and customs, but some of them fall into disuse with the time; but not in Poland. Indeed, this Slavic country of Central-East Europe, rich from the traces of times, kept from its past history surprising remains that shaped today’s polish customs.
Stemming from these old vestiges, the polish culture and traditions can be really surprising for foreigners coming to visit the country for the first time. From the Byzantine to the Ottoman empire, and strong from its Slavic roots, the polish people managed the stunning exploit of keeping alive habits and customs thousand-years old, introducing old traditions into modern life. Although heavily traumatized from the Second World War, the country didn’t lose anything from its flamboyant optimism, maintaining odd traditions and polish beliefs. Here is a review of the most curious and impressive polish culture facts.
Smigus Dyngus; Saut D’Eau throw on passersby
During Eastern, an odd ritual occurs in the streets of Poland, the famous “Smigus Dyngus”, one of the most important polish catholic traditions. This peculiar celebration, rather arbitrary, involves throwing water on passersby on Easter Monday.
Nowadays, it’s more a general water fight with water guns of water balloons launched on strangers through the windows. This tradition takes its origins from Christianism; where the splashes of the water recall the baptism or the benediction and symbolize the renewal and the fertility of nature. It’s in sum a very joyful moment conquering everyone (even the fire truck sometimes joins the festivities), making the happiness of both kids and older, and one of the most important polish rituals.
Marzanna; the sacrifice of a straw effigy
Marzanna’s ritual takes its roots from the paganist religion and is the polish name of the Slavic goddess of Death, Winter, and Nature. The event occurs on every first day of Spring, where the polish people build an impressive effigy of the goddess that they will later burn and drown in the river to chase winter and help nature to reborn.
The straw effigy of Marzanna is usually made out of the white web and colored ribbons and the ritual is submitted to very specific rules: one is not allowed to touch the effigy while it’s underwater unless he wants to lose his hand, and looking back while leaving the river is strictly forbidden, or one could bring back home severe diseases. In spite of all the efforts of the Catholic Church during the 20th century to eradicate this tradition, this custom persisted until now and is bringing together tons of polish people every year.
Andrzejki; a weird mix of fortune-telling and the Christian celebration
Polish people also have their own way of celebrating St. Andrew (30th of November) and it’s probably one of the most important polish family traditions as well the weirdest. The festivities feature tons of rituals and fortune-telling games, each of which more curious than the other. One of the most popular ones includes wax and key, and it’s not as dirty as it seems, so keep your smutty mind for you. Probably the funniest ritual is the shoe race one, where people place their shoes one after the other, and the first shoe reaching the wall of the door announces the future wedding of its owner… Why not after all.
The Toussaint is quite spectacular in Poland as it’s an annual holiday, where every 1st of November millions of polish people gather in the local cemeteries to commemorate their relatives laying flowers and candles on their graves. Among the most beautiful cemeteries to visit in Poland during vacations feature the Powazki of Warsaw and the Rakowicki and Salwator of Krakow.
Sharing of the Oplatek
The sharing of the Oplatek is known as the most ancient and beloved of all Christmas Polish traditions. It consists of a thin wafer made of flour and water, close in taste to the hosts used for communion during Mass, that the family members or friends share to wish each other the best New Year before sitting and enjoying the Christmas Eve dinner. The tasteless waffle symbolizes Forgiveness, Friendship, and Unity.
Poprawiny; a never-ending wedding celebration
Polish people don’t celebrate their wedding only once, but they like to make a second party afterward to make the pleasure last. Poprawiny is the party you have after a wedding reception to finish off all the food and drink and can be translated literally as “to correct, improve, fix”. So, if not all the vodka was drunk and not all galeretki and schabowe was eaten, you still have Poprawiny to fix it.
Another reason to go to Poland is that it is one of the Cheapest countries to visit in Europe and Asia
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