Drowning of the Marzanna in Poland Posted by on Mar 21, 2018 in Culture, Nature

How do Poles welcome Spring? They burn the winter! Literally! It usually happens on March 21st.

There is a good reason for drowning Marzanna (“Topienie Marzanny”)! Marzanna is a Slavic goddess associated with seasonal rites based on the idea of death and rebirth of nature. She is often described as a female demon associated with death, winter and nightmares, so when the time comes Poles are happy to say goodbye. And naturally, there is no better way to get rid of demon than old-fashioned witch-burning, and then followed by drowning in the river (just to be sure!). It’s a chance to symbolically “kill” or bury winter and welcome in spring, rebirth, new crops and the warmth of the sun.

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I still remember elementary school days, when all the kids would go on “wagary” (a Polish word used for skipping the school). We would make a scary looking hay doll, with clothes and accessories. She would be attached to a stick. We marched with her from school to the nearest river, burn her on the bridge and then throw her in the water!

Over the years, that day (first day of spring), became a “legal day off” – we would not get in trouble for skipping school any more! Teachers would get involved in the whole process of making and drowning Marzanna.

Check out this you tube video from one of the Polish schools! It brings back the memories…

In Poland this custom is a chance to symbolically “kill” or bury winter and welcome in spring, rebirth, new crops and the warmth of the sun. The return of the beloved storks from warmer climates is one such sign and precipitates preparations for the “topienie marzanny”.

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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew near Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.