Is All Saints Day a happy holiday? Posted by on Nov 1, 2013 in Culture

Halloween is getting more and more popular in Poland thanks to the media, especially American films, but in Poland it is All Saints’ Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych) which is celebrated by most people. It takes place on November 1st and has nothing to do with fun (according to most people). It’s a quiet sad day when we visit the graves of our families and friends to pray for them and help them with the prayers.Upon the graves on this day you can find thousands of flowers like chrysanthemum, wreaths, burning candles symbolising our memory and love for those who passed away. It is a great show, especially at night.

In North America, All Hallow’s Eve was turned into a non-religious holiday constituting an excuse to collect candy in case of children, party in case of adults, and dress up in costumes in case of both. In places like Austria, Belgium, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Portugal, Puerto Rico or Spain, people use the day to bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In Mexico the Day of the Dead is celebrated as a happy holiday when the souls of dead relatives return to dine with their families.

In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania, Moldova and Serbia, but also Finland, Italy, Sweden and Catholic parts of Germany, the holiday is also linked to the pre-Christian beliefs that around that time the souls of the dead relatives were returning to earth.

In most central and eastern European countries today’s Day of the Dead is a modern derivative of a Slavic holiday called Dziady, when the living would dine with the summoned ghosts of their ancestors and dead relatives. The tradition of lighting little lamps on the graves of relatives comes from the pagan ritual of lighting bonfires on burial places, as it was believed it kept the lost souls warm. Some sources claim the usual heavy house chores were forbidden on that day as was spitting, out of respect for the dead.

Today, American-style Halloween parties are slowly infiltrating central and eastern Europe, thought not nearly to the same extent, but the holiday is still primarily focused around the cemeteries which, for these few days in a year, are filled with life.

The way i remember Dzień Wszystkich Świętych in Poland, is my whole family getting together! I really loved it! I got to see all my relatives! We would all go to see graves of our family members and friends. It was a quiet time, but afterwards we would have big dinner and never ending stories…

As much as I love Halloween here…I miss Polish holiday a little…

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

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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.


  1. aga:

    fajny tekst 🙂