Sunday, November 11, 2007

All Saint's Day

Poles may not celebrate Halloween, but All Saint's Day on November 1st is one of the biggest holidays of the year in Poland.

Almost everyone travels to be with their families on All Saint's Day. People spend the day honouring the dead: visiting cemeteries to lay wreath's, flowers, and candles at the graves of their families.

Some friends and I went to one of the largest cemeteries in Krakow to pay our respects. Rather than being a somber event, the atmosphere was almost like a carnival. Vendors were selling candles, sweets, most notably bears made out of honey, while some street performers were even busking!

Once inside the gates of the cemetery, the mood was still festive, but more subdued, as people offered prayers and candles at individual graves. The largest group of candles were reserved for the Pope's parents.
The soft glow of the multicoloured candles lit our way through the dark to the area reserved for fallen Commonwealth soldiers. I lit a candle for the Canadian airmen killed in action in World War II, whose remains were recently buried here. We then lit our remaining candles for soldiers who had no family in Krakow to visit their graves.
Throughout the evening I thought of my grandparents, and wished that I could be lighting candles for them at their gravesides. The Polish celebration of All Saint's Day was one of the most beautiful and moving events I have experienced since being here, and is definitely one I'd like to continue in Canada.

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