Polish Customs

Harvest Day - Dozynki

Dozynki* was a great landowner's festival in the time of big country estate economy (16th 18th century). It had the characteristics of a feast and a dance, given by the owners of the estate in honor of all their servants and farm workers. The custom of celebrating the end of the harvest and other field works has been kept alive even today as an important feast of the whole agricultural state, In the whole territory of Poland, a special meaning was attached to the last clump or strip of the crops, which used to be left in the field for some time and ploughed around in a ceremonial way. The last handfuls of cereal were called broda (beard). It was believed to be inhabited by some mysterious forces able to keep up vegetation and decide about next year's crops. The start of the harvest, which was supposed to crown the whole year's efforts, was initiated in a particular ceremonial way. The reapers would decorate their tools with flowers and then say prayers.
Harvest wreath parades and the act of handing the harvest wreath to the host of the Dozynki festival, was initially held by the lord of the manor. It was later was taken over by the better-off farmers, the local parish priest, and finally by the local authorities. Dozynki wreaths are exhibited, coming from all over Poland. They are a symbol of the crops and fruits of the earth that have been gathered. Today, they are still respectfully kept till the next year and the grain that shells off is later added to the spring sowing seed.

St. John's night - June 23rd

Saint John's festival, in Poland called Sobotka, from the ritual bonfires lighted on that night), or St John's night was celebrated the night from June 23rd to June 24th, at the time of summer solstice and used to be held as a summer welcome festival, integrating the rites of fire, water and great love and fertility celebrations. Young people used to gather at forest glades and hills, round big bonfires lighted by an old technique of rubbing sticks and kept burning with wooden beams. Girls wore white clothes, danced in circles and sang love songs, while boys showed off their agility leaping over the fire.

The amorous frivolities of St John's night were a manifestation of readiness for procreation and giving birth.
What is left from those ancient beliefs and practices is the custom of floating wreaths down a river. Although the custom itself has been kept till the present times, nowadays it is nothing but a form of entertainment.
The St John's night's wreaths, woven of many kinds of herbs and flowers, both from the field and the garden, symbolized virginity, which girls were ready to offer to their boyfriends on that night in return for their love and promise of a wedding.

Andrzejki, Eve of St. Andrew's Day - November 29th

This a special night for young Polish girls who want to find a husband. On this night and the next day, fortunes are told and the results are not taken lightly. Here are a few ways that fortunes are told:

 

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* to reap or to mow