Cultural: All Saint's Day - Nov. 1
While Halloween on October 31 is a big holiday in the states, it is less so here. In fact, until a few years ago, no one ever celebrated it at all. Now it is gradually being introduced into the culture by the stores and western influences. So far, it mainly involves costumes and candy.
November 1 is a big deal here, however, and is when the Poles remember their loved ones. Typically they clean the graves of their dead relatives and then place candles and/or flowers on top of them. On November 1, it seems, EVERYONE is a saint. The name of the holiday is All Saint's Day.
This is a Roman Catholic tradition. I believe the Polish Baptists may go to the graveside just to clean it a couple of weeks ahead of November 1, just to make sure it's done, but they don't normally put candles on the grave nor go back to visit on November 1, necessarily.
Many people spend the entire day traveling in order to put flowers and candles on the graves of their family members - as sometimes they need to go to several different cemeteries. This tradition is very strong here, and while I as an American would probably say, "Let's just skip the far away ones", that isn't the attitude of the people here. They are very traditional and take this tradition seriously. As a result, there are many accidents over this holiday and usually a high number of accident-related deaths.
The candles are supposed to mean something related to the spirits of the dead ones, but I am not sure that most people actually believe that. I think most people, if questioned, would just say that it is the way that they show that they remember their dead - and would not attach as much spiritual meaning to it. They tend to meet their other living family members at the graveside and have a mini family reunion.
But it is really quite pretty.
I made a couple of videos last year - that's the only way I could put these up ahead of time since the big time that they observe them is actually ON November 1 just after dark. I'll try to get some more (and better) videos this year.
This first video shows the graves and how covered they are with flowers and candles.
This next one shows the national emblem, the Polish eagle and all the candles around represent people who remember those who died in various wars - but especially WW2.
Now, just in case you need something to finish up some projects near you, be sure to check out the goodies my sis has for you over in the store!