In Poland, you won’t find too many costume parties, trick-or-treaters, or jack-o-lanterns this time of year. Poles prefer to skip the hooplah of Halloween for the more solemn celebrations of All Saints’ Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych) and All Souls Day (Dzień Wszystkich Zmarłych or Dzień Zaduszny) on November 1 and 2, respectively.
On those days, Polish families make their way to their local cemeteries. You’ll see them carrying dustpans, small brooms, buckets, and other cleaning items. They’ve come to prep the gravesides of their loved ones who have passed, giving a good scrub to ornate marble headstones and clearing away rocks, grasses and branches that have accumulated around the graves.
After the cleaning’s done, the graves are decorated with floral bouquets and fresh plantings of flowers - usually chrysanthemums. Then out come the candles…Poles place grave lanterns near the flowers, creating a spectacular rainbow of lights as the evening shadows slowly drop in.
This tradition has roots in pre-Christian times when Slavs would commemorate the feast of Dziady (“Forefathers”). During the Dziady celebration, it was believed that the dead would return to be with their families for a short time. It was viewed as was bad luck if you didn’t welcome the dead back with flowers and feasting. The Catholic Church incorporated this belief into the feasts of All Saints’ and All Souls' Days. That’s why today, families gather in cemeteries to celebrate the lives of their loved ones with prayer and flowers…there’s rarely a gravesite in Poland that doesn’t have a decor on it in early November.
In the US, Polish-Americans are rapidly adopting the traditions of their ancestors. Polish parishes, like the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Doylestown, PA, hold special observances for the feast of All Saints’, which usually include a mass, followed by a procession to the cemetery. (In 2018, the Shrine’s celebration was on October 28.) After the procession, as in Poland, Polish-American families linger at the graves of their loved ones, clearing them up, and decking them out with flowers and candles. It’s a beautiful way to remember our ancestors and uphold the traditions of Polish culture for future generations.
If you have a loved one in a cemetery in the Philadelphia area, or at the Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown, and you can’t be at the grave to prepare it in the traditional Polish way for All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days, consider letting the Secret of Flowers Memorial Team do it for you. Click here to discover more about our Grave Decor Services for All Saints’ Day starting at just $27.