Wreath floating is Krakow's ancient
Customs of the Krakow Region.
Krakow region has always been rich in colorful folk traditions, handed down from
generation to generation, with almost every village cultivating its own set of
time-honored customs. Nowadays, as new lifestyles spread, some ancient practices are dead
but many flourish.
singers, mostly children, wander with a Christmas crib from door
to door over the holiday season. In reward for chanting a couple of Polish traditional
noels they get some change. In the past the kolednicy used to be adult and they performed
an elaborate Nativity puppet show.
‘Turon’ is a mask representing the head of the wild bull
(Polish ‘tur’), embodying the dark forces of nature. In the first weeks of year boys
in funny disguises roam the neighborhood with it, romping and bantering.
‘Babski Comber’ (female haunch) was a 3-day bacchanalia on
Krakow streets launched by the rampant crowd of women, mostly vendors from the outskirts
that took over the city center on the last Tuesday before the Lent. Frantic females
pranced on the Grand Square, ridiculed males, and forced passers-by
into dancing with them. The custom dating from the Middle Ages died out in 1852 but
recently there have been efforts to revive it as a carnival parade.
‘Pukhery’ (from the Latin ‘puer’, for boy) tradition
sets teenagers with blackened faces and decked in tall straw hats going from door to door
on Palm Sunday with comic orations that earn them small gifts.
‘Smigus’ means Poland’s universal custom of splashing over
one another with water on the Easter Monday. In the past village
boys used to drench girls for good luck in finding a husband, whipping them first with
‘Smigusnicy’ masqueraders, usually sporting mock-military
uniforms, wander the neighborhoods on the Easter Monday. One
place they push a wheelbarrow with tiny flower garden and sing an ancient song about souls
rambling meadows. Elsewhere they carry an image of Christ Resurrected and sing a medieval
song about barefoot Mother of God fetching well-water and asking children at a green
meadow if they saw Her Son. Those masqueraded as a hag play pranks and demand a token
ransom from passers-by.
‘Wianki’, or wreaths floating, is part of the all-night
open-air festivities by bonfires on St. John’s Day, June 24, celebrating the summer
solstice. Girls put flower-and-magic-herbs garlands adrift down a river and watch. If a boy
snatches your wreath, you will marry soon. If it sinks, you will die young. And whenever
it couples with another girl’s wreath you may count on a life-long friendship.
‘Zielone Swiatki’ Whitsunday feast is the occasion for
joyful gatherings at night by numerous bonfires.
‘Dozynki’ harvest festivals amount to yearly summer fiestas
in August when villagers celebrate their new grain crop.