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Beata: All About Polish Lesson 9 - Top 5 Important Dates in Poland
Nick: Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the All About Polish series! What are we going to be talking about today?
Beata: The top five most important holidays in Poland!
Nick: Poland has a lot of interesting celebrations throughout the year, and today we are going to learn about five holidays that are near and dear to the hearts of Polish people. We're going to go in reverse order, though, which means we'll start with number five.
Beata: Coming in at number five is Mother's Day, which in Polish is "Dzień Matki."
Nick: Even though Mother's Day is not a day off from work, it has become a highly celebrated holiday in Polish families.
Beata: Children prepare gifts at school, such as cards, poems, and the like, and I have to admit that mothers do feel special on this day.
Nick: What day does this fall on?
Beata: It always falls on the twenty-sixth of May.
Nick: What comes in at number four?
Beata: Number four is New Year's Eve, which in Polish is called "Sylwester."
Nick: What would a typical Pole do on New Year's Eve?
Beata: It depends. There are really many ways to celebrate New Year's Eve in Poland. One of the most common ways is celebrating this day at your friend's house. The rule is that you have to bring something with you, whether it's something to eat or drink. You can also bring fireworks with you or anything else you think might be needed. It's all up to you, but don't come empty-handed.
Nick: I also know that restaurants and pubs organize New Year's Eve celebrations, but there's usually some fee associated with it. Do you know how much you would have to pay for such a treat?
Beata: I want to say that ticket prices range from one hundred dollars to four hundred dollars per couple. The more expensive tickets should also have some food and alcohol included in them. The price also depends on how popular and exclusive the place is.
Nick: If, by any chance, you're planning to celebrate New Year's this way, ask beforehand what the particular establishment is offering.
Beata: If you enjoy live concerts, the next option is for you.
Nick: Most larger Polish cities host live concerts for New Year's Eve, usually held in a market square or other central location.
Beata: There's a lot of good Polish music going on, ranging from really old songs to the newest music trends. Sometimes, if the hosting city has enough money, they will invite someone famous from abroad.
Nick: And just before midnight, Poles will do a common countdown. As soon as midnight strikes, they will wish each other "Happy New Year," which in Polish is...
Beata: "Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku."
Nick: Then there's an amazing display of fireworks and celebrations continue.
Beata: Watch out, though, for tossed bottles of champagne and fireworks from the crowd. Sometimes it can get pretty dangerous.
Nick: Okay, so now we're down to number three.
Beata: Number three is All Saints' Day, known as "Wszystkich Świętych."
Nick: It falls on November first and is widely observed throughout the whole of Poland. So tell me, what do Poles do on this day?
Beata: They visit cemeteries to pray and remember those who passed away. There's a huge abundance of flowers, beautiful wreaths, and an unbelievable amount of candles.
Nick: I've heard that at night these lit candles look especially spectacular and amazing.
Beata: I have to say that it's a one-of-a-kind experience. Imagine that you have hundreds and hundreds of candles placed throughout the whole cemetery. The view is unforgettable.
Nick: Is it a day off of work?
Beata: Yes, it is. This way those who moved away from their hometowns can return for this occasion to visit the graves of their lost loved ones and also to spend some time with their families.
Nick: What's number two, then?
Beata: Number two is "Wielkanoc," which translates to "Easter" in English.
Nick: Since it's a movable holiday, it can fall any day between the twenty-second of March and the twenty-fifth of April. Tell us a little bit about "Wielkanoc," then?
Beata: It all starts on Palm Sunday, which begins the Holy Week. Customarily, Poles go to church with little palms usually made from willow branches or straw and decorated with colorful ribbons. If you're lucky, you might see really tall palms that can reach up to ten meters in height. These palms are handmade for a special contest that is held in some churches throughout Poland.
Nick: Wow, sounds really interesting.
Beata: Then, on Holy Saturday, Poles go to church with little baskets filled with different foods, such as bread, sausage, ham, eggs, horseradish, and even salt and pepper, and have them blessed by a priest.
Nick: I've seen beautifully decorated eggs that are called "pisanki" also in those baskets. I know that they are very typical of Polish Easter.
Beata: Yeah. Actually, a lot of people make them by themselves. They use hard-boiled eggs and then they decorate them. However, you can also buy "pisanki" made of wood in any souvenir shop.
Nick: Then on Easter Sunday, families go to church and afterward they eat a solemn breakfast made from food blessed on Saturday.
Beata: Some families, just before the meal, will share eggs, wishing each other all the best.
Nick: That's different.
Beata: Wait for Easter Monday. On this day, Poles sprinkle each other with water. And I have to say that sometimes it's really just a sprinkling, but be also ready for more than that.
Nick: What do you mean by "more than that?"
Beata: Young people especially love this day. And sometimes their imagination can carry them away a bit and then we're talking about buckets of water.
Nick: Can they "sprinkle," if we can call it that, a stranger?
Beata: I want to say they shouldn't, but it's difficult to tell. From my previous experiences, I have to say yes, they can.
Nick: Well, it sounds like a lot of fun. It's definitely something very different.
Beata: There are many theories as to the source of this tradition. Some say that dousing with water symbolized the joy felt at the end of winter. Others contend that water is supposed to bring fertility and quick marriage for young maidens. Whatever the reason, the tradition is still in full swing and it will probably stay like this for years to come.
Nick: Okay, so here we are waiting for the number one holiday in Poland.
Beata: Many of you probably won't be surprised with our number one. It's Christmas, known as "Boże Narodzenie."
Nick: It makes perfect sense since Poland is mostly a Catholic country and Catholic celebrations play an important role in the lives of many Poles. So how do Poles observe this holiday?
Beata: It all starts with Christmas Eve, the twenty-fourth of December. As soon as the first star appears in the sky, Poles sit down to a solemn supper, called "Wigilia." Before the meal, Polish families pray together and share "opłatek."
Nick: "Opłatek" is a special blessed Christmas wafer that you can get from your church.
Beata: Yes, that's correct. So what you do with it is you basically circle the table, going from one family member to another, wishing each other all the best. Once this tradition is fulfilled, you can enjoy the supper.
Nick: What is usually served for the Christmas supper?
Beata: First of all, there's no meat served on Christmas Eve. Supper itself should traditionally consist of twelve meals symbolizing the twelve apostles, including specialties like fried carp, ravioli filled with mushrooms, and "barszcz czerwony" ("red borscht").
Nick: There's also always one extra place set at the table. What does this custom symbolize?
Beata: This extra place at the table is often referred to as a place for an unexpected guest. It mainly symbolizes an expectation of the coming of Jesus Christ, but also it means remembrance of those passed on. I think that it is one of the most beautiful traditions that Poles have.
Nick: I have never heard about such a custom before. It's very special, I agree.
Beata: So after the supper, Polish families usually exchange gifts and sing Christmas carols. And then before midnight they go to church for midnight mass. And here we are again…there are many beliefs associated with this special night.
Nick: I know one. I know that if you give "opłatek," the Christmas wafer, to animals, they will speak with a human voice at midnight.
Beata: The other one is that exactly at midnight, the water in wells will turn into wine.
Nick: There's a lot of magic revolving around Christmas and Christmas Eve in Polish traditions.
Beata: Yes, there is. In my opinion, it makes Christmas Eve a very special day for many reasons.
Nick: What about Christmas Day itself?
Beata: It's mostly reserved for immediate family. People go to church, eat a lot, and relax. The second day of Christmas, which falls on the twenty-sixth of December, is spent with extended family and close friends.
Nick: So with that, we've covered the five most important holidays in Poland.
Beata: We hope you have the chance to visit Poland during one of these holidays so that you can experience it for yourself!
Nick: Join us next time for more information on Poland at PolishPod101.com!