Dziady: Polish (Hipster) Halloween

Aren't you bored with the typical Halloween fuss, trick-or-treat hassle and girls scaring their fathers to death by wearing bizarre exposed costumes? Do you want to try something new and feel like a real Halloween-hipster this year? Polish pre-Christian tradition of Dziady is the answer.

Prepare a feast of honey, grains, eggs, kutia and of course, vodka. Tonight you are expecting very specials guests - ghosts of your late loved ones. If you feel adventurous you can also wait for them at the graveyard next to their graves. You have to treat them very well to secure their favor and at the same time help them achieve peace in the afterlife. You can also go the extra mile and pamper them with a hot bath. Do not forget to light the way to your home with bonfires, you do not want your guests to get lost!

It is also good to stay on good terms with the local beggars, called dziady. According to tradition, they serve as connectors between our world and the kingdom of the dead, so do not forget to share some food with them. To be on the safe side you can also give them clothes similar to those worn by your deceased.

Be hipster, make Dziady instead of Halloween, says Adam Mickiewicz
The tradition of Dziady is not  really cultivated in modern Poland but all Poles know it fairly well thanks to one of our greates poets of Polish Romanticism, Adam Mickiewicz. In 2nd part of his poetic drama "Dziady" he describes the ritual, however it's inspired more by Belorussian tradition, not Polish. Still, the details doen't matter - Dziady keep all Polish teenagers awake at night, as it's essential reading every Polish high school... (if you consider yourself an advanced Polish speaker, give it a go! But I warn you, it's not easy!).

As you've probably already guessed, pagan holidays are not really welcome in still very traditional and Catholic Poland. Halloween is known here for several years already, it however meets mixed reactions. Some people think that it's just another opportunity to wear funny costumes and carve pumpkins, others are strongly opposed, and insist on celebrating just All Saints' Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych), on the 1st of November 1 and All Souls' Day (Zaduszki) the next day. All Saints' Day is a bank holiday and usually everybody travels to their hometowns to lit a candles on graves of their late family members... sounds familiar? If not go back to second and third paragraph and the description of Dziady ;-)

Catholic side of the "conflict" comes  up with many ideas to stop children and young people from celebrating pagan (by some even considered satanic) Halloween. Common idea is a change of Facebook profile photo to picture of your Patron Saint. Other method is encouraging parents and children to wear a costume of their Patron Saint to Halloween parties. Pro-Halloween side immediately points out that most saints died in a cruel way and their traditional attributes are not suitable for children... let's take very popular Polish name Agata as an example. Saint Agata died during torture and had her breasts cut off, thus in iconography she is often presented with her breasts on a plate... ouch!

Others notice that both holidays - Halloween and All Saint's Day are just big commercial events. Just as Western shops are bursting at the seams with decorations and costumes for Halloween, Polish are full of znicze (candles to put on grave) in all forms and sizes and different flowers to decorate graves. In some cemeteries you can even find vending machines to buy znicze...



What's your opinion? Let me know!