November 1st and 2nd are the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

These are days of reflection, reverie and memories

On November 1st, we celebrate All Saints’ Day in Poland. Contrary to popular belief, this day is dedicated to the dead but those who are recognized as Saints by the Catholic Church. However, on November 2nd, we celebrate All Souls’ Day and then we honour the memory of our dead ones.

All Saints’ Day is one of the most important Catholic celebrations. This celebration has a very long tradition. In the Catholic religion, the custom of remembering the dead ones as a church cellebration began Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century. At that time, however, it was celebrated on May 1st and mainly martyrs of the church were remembered. However, in the 8th century this day was moved to November 1st, and in the 9th century it was decided that we would also honour the saints on this day.

However, according to tradition, both May 1st and November 1st , corresponded roughly to the dates when Slavic ancestors remembered the dead ones. These dates were conditioned by the phases of the moon.

These rites were called All Souls’ Day or Forefathers’ Eve. Originally Forefathers’ Eve, or All Souls’ Day were preparation for the actual celebration of the dead. It was believed that on this day, the souls of our ancestors penetrate the world of the living ones. Bonfires were lit so that they would not go astray. Even in the early 1990s, you could often see the glow of fire over graveyards. This custom has survived to this day, but the fires were replaced with candles.

Another custom was that our ancestors, on the night of October 31st to November 1st, organized celebrations, ate, drank and played to entertain the souls of the dead ones. Until the end of the 19th century, it was customary to leave meals for the dead on the tables and leave the doors open. In many cultures, we can still observe eating over the graves of the loved ones.

In the times of the Polish People’s Republic, the holiday of November 1st was called the Day of the Dead, as the party did not want this day to be associated with the Church.

The tradition of visiting the graves of our loved ones is very strong and the most common day for this is November 1st and 2nd. We decorate our relatives’ graves with flowers and candles. It is also an opportunity to visit family sites and family meetings.

During these days, it is also worth visiting the graves of not only our relatives, but also those forgotten by others. These days should be an occasion for reverie and reflection.

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