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At the end of Fall, Poland marks one of the most significant and solemn religious holidays, All Saints’ Day. On that day, Poles visit cemeteries and gather around their family graves, laying flowers and lighting candles in memory of their loved ones.

Since the 9th century, All Saints’ Day has been celebrated on November 1st. This tradition originates from the medieval custom of honoring the believers who sacrificed their lives for the faith. The Catholic calendar marks November 2nd as All Souls’ Day. That day is intended to reflect and remember all those who passed away. Millions of Poles crisscross the country, visiting cemeteries and paying their respects to departed relatives and friends. It is customary to gather around graves, tidying them, lighting up candles, and lying down wreaths and flowers. This tradition is drawn from “Dziady,” a pagan folk ritual honoring one’s ancestors. During “Dziady,” the dead were believed to join the living from the afterworld. It was expected to welcome them with food and drink. Feasts for the occasion also took place in homes, where some food would be left on the floor for the wandering spirits. Nowadays, in some Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine regions, symbolic tokens of food are still brought to the graves. Around All Saints’ Day, “pańska skórka” (lord’s skin), a homemade candy in a wrapper, is sold near the cemeteries of Warsaw. Such a custom was also preserved in other parts of Poland; “miodek turecki” (Turkish honey) is offered in Krakow and “szczypka” (sliver) in Lublin.

In Poland, All Saints Day on November 1st is a somber affair meant to reminisce of those who are no longer around us, offer a quiet prayer, and share memories of those loved ones. However, later in the evening, the warm glow of flickering candles and their dispersing scent hovers over the graveyards forming a dreamlike quality and a sense of serenity.       

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