Last weekend Polish cemeteries were “lit on fire” Posted by on Nov 7, 2019 in Culture

Visitors expecting Halloween celebration full of costume parties and debauchery (rozpusta) may be surprised to learn that in Poland the October 31st ‘holiday’ is completely overshadowed by the rather sobering, sombre proceedings of November 1st and 2nd every year.

Known nationally as All Saints’ Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych) and All Souls’ Day (Dzień Zaduszny, or Dzień Wszystkich Zmarłych) respectively, these two days of the calendar year are dedicated to prayer and paying tribute to the deceased by visiting their graves (groby).


Image courtesy my bother Krzyś

Image courtesy my bother Krzyś

It is tradition for catholic families to visit resting places of their relatives, tending the graves with a care that is truly touching, before laying wreaths, flowers and candles that will be kept lit throughout the length of the holiday. As night descends, the country’s graveyards are aglow with the warm light of literally thousands of flickering candles, creating an eerie, incredibly evocative atmosphere that should not be missed by anyone with a heart that still beats.

Cemetery in the village I grew up. Image courtesy my friend Asia Wiak


Families get together and it is a way to celebrate together. They are celebrating the lives of people they lost and it is actually not as sad as it sounds. I remember my family getting together and all of us would share happy memories of our relatives that were no longer with us. There was always a lot of food and yes, people drink alcohol at the dinner table as well!

Image by goszka from Pixabay

While visitors to the country may not have ancestors buried here, a trip to one of the local cemeteries during this unforgettable ceremony is, indeed, requisite. They can experience themselves the subtle smells of the incense, fresh flowers and burning wax and the unearthly glow of the immense candlelight… Also, you will be able to see some interesting, old monuments!

Image courtesy my friend Asia Wiak

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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.