If you happen to be in Poland near the end of October/beginning of November then you are likely to witness one of the most important days in the Polish calendar- Dzień Zaduszny or All Souls Day. Although it is a holy day of obligation ( a day when Catholics are required to attend to mass) it has become more of a cultural tradition rather than a religious one.
The week preceding Dzień Zaduszny is marked by an increased number of visitors to the cemetery as family and friends clean and prepare the headstones of their dearly departed for the big day. Old flowers are thrown out, new ones are bought and it is also customary to light a candle on the grave.
However, by virtue of the fact that most Poles will honour and remember their loved ones by visiting the cemetery on this day turns a semi-important day in the church’s calendar into a warm, cultural day of family bonding and remembrance.
Towns, cities are villages and busy with groups of families and friends walking towards the cemetery often with plastic bags filled with candles. Relatives from the other end of the country will often make the pilgrimage to the family grave to show their respects.
By the time darkness falls and most people have finished work (as not everyone will get the day off due to work commitments) then the streets around cemeteries become filled with crowds of people. As a tourist it’s recommended to stay off the roads at this time as it’s common for roads to be gridlocked and parking spaces are at a premium but if you have the opportunity and want to experience a real slice of Polish culture then I recommend you pay a visit a to a local cemetery on this day.
During the evening there is an amber glow above every Polish cemetery as the hundreds of candles that are lit illuminate the sky.