Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another All Saints' Day

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.
Since there is such a massive influx of people to get into the cemeteries, the lines forming can become long, cramped, pushy affairs lasting many hours.  I heard of a five-hour wait to get into one cemetery.  Outside the cemeteries, sellers peddle flowers and candles, as well as taffy (panska skorka) and sweet puffed rice balls (szyszka (pine cones)), as well as sweet mini-bagels (obwarzanki).  Bródno Cemetery has a 'notorious' distinction amongst cemeteries in Warsaw, in that it's the only one with a mini-fair outside its walls.  There are grills, candy stands, hawkers selling gloves, hats, earrings, panflute CDs.  Inside, it's restricted to the taffy, rice balls, and obwarzanki.
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…
It usually ends with families going home and having a big dinner together.  Sometimes they reminisce about those that have passed away.  Overall it's a very solemn and sad holiday.  Traditions are changing and many people did party the night before on Halloween.  They have license to party even harder because November 1st is a free day (no school and no work).  Not that there hasn't been backlash against Halloween.  There is a small campaign to banish it, as it is un-Polish.

Adoration of The Virgin.


rao said...

Hey dude. Sorry to write this here, but I can't find any other way to contact you.

I just wanted to say that I find your blog very interesting, nice to look at one's own country from a foreigner's eye :-)

Just one extra question: how did you come up with the title of your blog? When I first read it, I thought that it will be a blog of a guy describing his sexual adventures in Poland (because as far as I know "polish my knob" means "give me a blowjob", doesn't it?).

Anyways, take care and keep on blogging!

PolishMeKnob said...

Heh, well, actually you're partially right.
It doesn't come from me describing my sexcapades, but it is a dirty little pun.
Actually, I kind of wish that I had chosen something different, but I guess I'm stuck with it now, so… c'est la vie.

Thanks for reading!