All Saints' Day in Warsaw

Trip Start Sep 29, 2005
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Trip End Dec 21, 2005


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Tuesday, November 1, 2005

As I mentioned at the end of out Prague trip, we arrived back in Warsaw at about 6 am on Monday morning after a night of tossing and turning on the night train. November 1 is All Saints' Day which is a national holiday in Poland, so luckily we didn't have to go to work. That said, we made a beeline for our apartment, caught a couple hours of and then set out to explore some more of Warsaw...after all this was only the third day that we spent in Warsaw that we were not working.

On All Saints' Day (November 1), and to a slightly lesser extent, All Souls' Day (November 2) virtually everyone in Poland travels to visit the graves of their friends and family who have passed on, and pay homage to figures they feel may be particularly important to them. A number of the guys at work felt that this holiday was something that we should definitely experience if possible. Based on what I had heard in the past, I expected a fairly solemn, morose day. However, after spending the evening in one of the largest cemeteries in Warsaw, I was quite surprised. Graves are decorated with flowers and covered with candles of all shapes and sizes. Thousands of people (probably more like tens of thousands in Warsaw) walk the rows of the cemeteries which are dimly lit by the tens of thousands of candles paying tribute to the departed. The biggest aspect of this event that struck me was that people use the occasion to recognize the accomplishments of individuals important to them and celebrate their passage after death rather than mourn their loss. We spent from 6:30 pm until about 9:30 pm walking around one of the largest cemeteries in Warsaw, called Powazki, which is also the oldest and burial site of many of the most famous figures in Warsaw. Standing at one end of the cemetery, one would see nothing by flickering candles as far as the eye could see...it was an incredibly moving experience to say the least. I included a couple of pictures, which really capture the atmosphere, but they are the best I could do.

The gathering in the cemeteries takes place in the evening however, and thus we had a full day of exploring Warsaw before observing the real All Saints' Day celebration. That said, here are some pictures from throughout the day.
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