All Saint's Day, better known to those in North America as The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) (it's the Mexican influence. It's like Cinco de Mayo, a well-known party day in the US, but a minor holiday in the Mexican state of Puebla), is a solemn, sad holiday were people go to visit the graves of their deceased loved ones. They go and place special candles (znicz) as well as flowers (usually chrysanthemums) on the graves and clean up the area around the grave itself and say prayers for the dead. The churches (usually inside the cemeteries themselves) are packed and there are on-going masses starting a few moments after the previous one ends. National holiday (a day off from work) and most people travel back home to be with their families.
This year, I was in the Bródno Cemetery, in northeast Warsaw. Cemeteries in Poland are not like the almost-golf courses of burial in the US. The graves are more tomblike and grander, rather than the massive lawns spotted with headstones. The cemeteries are also massive, sprawling areas, usually forested. Most cemeteries have a small chapel (or two) inside where the funerals are held.
|Ones who are buried recently usually sport a greater number of flowers and candles. Older graves (going back 100+ years) are sometimes left uncleaned and unadorned.|
|People cleaning and decorating the graves.|
On the way out, it too an hour of plodding long inch-by-inch to go about 200 yards. So crammed were the people, that the police made a human divider for traffic (for one side going one direction, and the other another). Tempers flared.
|Main thoroughfares in the cemetery we clogged, but there was enough space for people to branch out. The road leading to the entrance of the cemetery was another story…|
|Adoration of The Virgin.|