Saturday 29 October 2011

Tales from Eastern Europe

During this time I usually think of Poland-my home. When I first came to the UK it struck me how the Halloween is different from how we spend this time where I come from.
1st of November is called there All Saints Day or All Hallows Day. People travel long distances to visit graves of their relatives.
The tradition comes from centuries ago when first Christians gave their tribute to the saints that died for the Christian faith.
In the 3rd century a tradition of relocating bodies of saints was established. The remains were moved from one church to the other, which meant that their bodies were owned by whole of the Catholic Church.
After the Pope was given the pagan temple, Panteon, by the Roman Cesear, he decided to bury many of the saints' relics there and established 13 May as the day when the saints will be worshipped. Every year on that day masses of pilgrims visited Panteon and Rome. Because of lack of food during the spring time the Pope moved the worship day to 1 November and expanded it to the whole Church, so people could pray in their own parish.
Wikipedia doesn't say why this day is celebrated only in some of the countries and I'm too lazy to look for more information :)
Anyway, it is bank holiday in Poland.
Before my grandparents died I used to like it because it was always a longer weekend. It was very exciting to go to the cemetery with my mum and burn candles at her friends' graves. The cemetery looks absolutely beautiful during the night. It's not scary at all. There is this special, silent atmosphere around..

Then, after my grandparents died, the main point of the day was to visit the graves a day before, tidy it up. During the next day there is a special mass at the cemetery. You just stand next to the grave and listen to the mass. This was the worst thing, I must say. It was usually freakin' cold, there was no where to sit and the priest would go for ages and ages. When I was a teenager I hated it, so me and my sister had a game where you have to pick up a person from the crowd in the most outrageous outfit. Some of the people attending the mass go to the church once, maybe twice a year and they try to wear their best clothes-most of the time it just looks hilarious.
Nowadays it is also a very commercial day. Just outside the cemetery gates you find stalls with candles and flowers. People just try to make business...
For me the 1st of November is the time when I remember  those that passed away, but living in the UK gave me also another perspective and I always try to have fun AND also pray for my friends and grandparents-there is a beauty in both of the traditions.


  1. Hey, we also celebrate the same way! I mean, we go to the cemetery on Nov 1 and there's also a Mass. Of course, it makes sense, as Poland and the Philippines are both predominantly Catholic countries :)

  2. I heard that the Halloween in Phillippines is even more of a bigger deal than in Poland. Our celebrations are quite serious and sad, especially with the freezing weather.