All Saints Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych) – or simply “All Saints” (Wszystkich Świętych) – is a traditional spiritual holiday celebrated by the Catholic Church on November 1 in honor of all known and unknown saints and martyrs. In Orthodoxy there is an analogue to this holiday – the Cathedral of All Saints, but it is not tied to a specific date.
Modern All Saints Day in Poland
On this day, traditionally, not only the officially recognized and proclaimed saints are remembered, but also people whose lives were marked by holiness. This is a holiday for all for whom the goal is life leading to salvation. In practice, in modern Poland, people visit the graves of all their loved ones, honor their memory, burn memorial candles (znicze) and decorate the graves with flowers.
It is customary to bring bouquets or pots with an even number of live chrysanthemums to the graves. It is believed that these are the most suitable flowers for such an occasion. You will see flowers in pots even more often, because they can be either simply left at the memorial, or transplanted into the ground at the grave.
As for funeral candles or icon lamps (those same znicze), this is the most obligatory attribute of the holiday. You don’t have to bring flowers, but you must take the icon lamp with you. Large and small, they may contain paraffin, wax or oil, or they may have replaceable liners. Their burning period is from one day to several days. And therefore, in the dark, starting from November 1, passing by the cemetery, it is simply impossible not to notice how beautifully it is illuminated by the icon lamps.
Many Poles, after visiting the graves of their relatives, walk around the entire cemetery and put up lamps where they are not there, where, perhaps, there are no relatives, or they could not come. Some also go to church services, where they light candles and pray for the souls of the martyrs of God.
The day after All Saints Day (November 2) is commemorated as the Day of Remembrance of the Dead (Zaduszki / Zaduszki, Dzień Zaduszny). This is a day of prayer for all believers in Christ who have already left this world and are now in purgatory.
November 1 – official day off
This holiday was also a holiday during the PRL (Polskiej Republiki Ludowej) times, but the authorities constantly tried to give it a secular character and called it the Day of the Dead.