You probably are if you live in Scotland. It’s called St Andrew’s Day. But in Poland it’s not so much about the saint, it’s more about predictions and parties.
Andrzejki, how the day is referred to (from Andrzej, which is the Polish equivalent of Andrew), is when everybody predicts their future by observing some fun customs like pouring hot wax on cold water or moving girls’ shoes from one end of the room to the door. Why wax and why the shoes, you ask? Let me explain.
Traditionally, single girls used the day to predict when they would get married or what they could expect in the coming months. With time, this tradition was adopted by men too and for decades now Andrzejki has simply been a good excuse for a party (even mid-week).
The most popular and the most traditional way of predicting the future on Andrzejki is by melting a lot of wax and then pouring it (ideally through an old-fashioned key) onto cold water. This needs to be done carefully so that the wax forms one solid ‘shape’. You then remove the ‘shape’ from the water (once the wax has solidified, that is) and – using a strong source of light – look at the shadow it throws on the wall.
And this is when you need to use your imagination. You need to ‘read’ the shadow. Is it a man? Is it a pig? Is it a baby? Is it a monster? Whatever it is, this is your future (apparently).
Another custom involves single girls only. They each need to take a shoe off and place it in a row, starting by the wall opposite the main door. Then the last shoe is brought to the front and then the next one and so on. The owner of the shoe which reaches the door first will definitely get married next year. Guaranteed. Or your money back.
Whatever the future holds, tonight is the night. Have a ball!
Image by bildungsr0man via Flickr, Creative Commons licence
So, is it true that the Polish Santa Claus visits twice? Yes. Lucky Poles, eh? Let me explain.
6th December is St. Nicolaus day (Mikołajki), and traditionally it’s been a day when people give their children small gifts. But only those who’d behaved themselves, obviously. Santa Claus for most people in Poland will more likely be associated with that day then, rather than Christmas, although – bit confusingly – for many others he is a secular symbol of Christmas and therefore comes back on Christmas Eve too with even more gifts. He must be loaded. Let’s see how he copes with the credit crunch then.
Image © Dalej1 via Flickr, used under CC licence
Today is probably one of the most important days of the year for most Poles. All Saints’ Day – the day when you remember those who’ve already gone. All over the country people will be going to cemeteries, lighting candles, meeting families and reflecting on life (well, not collectively – for many today is a chore, for many others it’s a chance to show off their best outfits).
I really like the day, but the best part of it is the evening. When the weather is fine, some people will – rather unusually – go for a walk around their local cemetery in the evening. The light of hundreds of thousands of candles makes the sky red, thousands of flowers make the grey autumnal evening more colourful, the smell of leaves mixed with the smell of burning wax is overwhelming and – if you’re lucky to visit a really old cemetery, the sculptures and gravestones will look simply beautiful.
Next time you’re in Poland in early November – try it. It’s a different world.
Image © kingary used under CC licence