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All Saints' Day in Krakow, Poland.

For people in Poland, even if the Catholic Church espouses a different hierarchy of religious festivals, All Saints’ Day, which falls every year on November 1st, remains the third most important feast after Christmas and Easter. And what’s more, everybody solemnly observes it, no matter what  religion one adheres to, no matter whether he or she is a churchgoer or an atheist. It’s because that date is regarded as the day of honoring the dead, devoted wholly to commemoration of people who passed away, notably the loved ones and relatives, more or less distant, with the religious aspect being far less important even to ardent believers. Also churches have adjusted while at the same time each of them celebrates All Saints’ Day in the proper ecclesiastical way of its creed.    


Honoring the dead, the Polish Way.

Late October, in anticipation of All Saints’ Day, people rush to cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves of their relatives as it’s generally considered an obligation to leave no burial place neglected on the advent of the feast. On the festival itself everybody tries to visit the places of eternal rest of deceased kindred as well as friends who expired and other deserving dead persons. It’s a family occasion so wives and husbands accompany their spouses with children following their parents. Since everyone brings candles to the cemetery and burns them – nowadays it’s usually special-purpose sepulchral lanterns, some of them sizable – it may appear to be the key form of commemorating the deceased. But what really counts is the presence at the grave, long minutes dedicated to meditation and memories of the late person, and  a prayer for his/her soul (does not apply to atheists). On All Saints’ Day quite a few do the same to honor favorite dead celebrities when their tombs happen to be within walking distance.

All Saints' Day vs. All Souls' Day in Poland.

In theory it’s the All Souls Day (called Dzien Zaduszny or Zaduszki in Polish), November 2nd, allotted to honoring the dead who haven’t been officially canonized but nobody cares and hardly anybody seems even familiar with the fact. One should probably blame the authorities which established November 1st as a public holiday whereas the following day remains devoid of such a privilege. In consequence, departed relatives and friends took over All Saints Day while All Souls Day became a supplementary day of remembrance when some people revisit graves or visit those of secondary importance.


Visitor guide to All Saints' Day in Krakow.

Visitors to Krakow should remember that All Saint’s Day isn’t like any other date. Firstly, it’s a public holiday with all shops closed and most tourist attractions unavailable. Secondly, as people wander not only from grave to grave but also from one cemetery to another, on November 1st streets are more congested than ever and means of public transport extremely crowded. On the other hand, foreigners may find it special and highly atmospheric to visit a Polish cemetery – full of people, twinkling glimmers, and flowers – on All Saints’ Day).

Among many burial grounds in Krakow two are particularly interesting and scenic: Rakowice Cemetery (Cmentarz Rakowicki) and Salwator Cemtery (Cmentarz Salwatorski), the latter overlooking the city from the elevated slope of Gora sw. Bronislawy hill.

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