All Saints’ Day is celebrated on 1 November as a commemoration day for all Christian saints. It may also be known as All Hallows’ Day, Solemnity of All Saints, Hallowmas, or Feast of Saints.
Traditions of All Saints’ Day
The origin of All Saints’ Day may date back to a Greek Christian tradition from the 4th century, when a festival was held to honor saints and martyrs on the Sunday following Pentecost.
The first recorded All Saints’ Day occurred on 13 May 609 CE when Pope Boniface IV accepted the Pantheon in Rome as a gift from the Emperor Phocas. The Pope dedicated the day as a holiday to honour the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.
In 835 CE, during the reign of Pope Gregory III, the festival was moved to 1 November and was expanded to include the honouring of all saints. It is likely that 1 November was intentionally chosen to replace the pagan feast of the dead, Samhain. The night before Samhain was a time when evil spirits roamed the land looking for humans. To confuse the spirits, people would dress up as creatures. This tradition carried on after 1 November became a Christian festival, hence the name of Halloween – which is a shortened version of All Hallows’ Eve.
The day survived the Reformation, though the Protestants combined it with All Souls’ Day, which was on 2 November.
The day was abolished as a church festival in 1770, but may be celebrated by many churches on the first Sunday in November.
In Roman Catholicism, All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. This means Catholics must go to Mass on the date unless there is a good reason not to attend, such as illness. The holiday is typically observed with a reading of the Beatitudes, eight blessings given in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew.
In recent years, it has become common in many churches to commemorate those who died during the year on the day itself.
The tradition of placing candles on the graves the evening before All Saints’ Eve is becoming more common.
History of Polish Independence Day
Polish Independence Day commemorates the re-establishment of the state of Poland at the end of World War I in 1918.
For 123 years prior to 1918, Poland had been partitioned under the rule of Prussia, Austria, and Russia.
On 11 November 1918, the day that World War I ended, this partition was removed and Poland was granted its independence.
In 1945, when Poland became a communist regime as a result of the Yalta conference, at the request of Stalin following the end of World War II, the holiday was abolished.
In 1989, following the collapse of the Communist government fell, Independence Day was reinstated as a national holiday
For Poles, Christmas Eve is a time of family gathering and reconciliation. It’s also a night of magic: Animals are said to talk in a human voice and people have the power to tell the future. The belief was born with our ancestors who claimed that Dec. 24 was a day to mark the beginning of a new era. It was bolstered by sayings such as, “As goes Christmas Eve, goes the year.” Hoping for a good 12 months, everyone was polite and generous to one another and forgave past grievances.
Today, few treat the old traditions seriously, but some survive as family fun. “Maidens” interested in their marital future and older people, who try to predict next year’s weather based on the sky’s aura between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night (Jan. 6), sometimes cling to past superstitions.
Polish rural residents are among the few who still keep up the old Christmas Eve customs. In eastern Poland it is still believed that girls who grind poppy seed on Christmas Eve can hope for a quick marriage. After dinner, they leave the house, and the direction of the first dog bark points to where their future husband will come from. Another fortune-telling trick is eavesdropping on the neighbors. If in a casual conversation, the girl hears the word “Go” it means she will get married in the coming year. A loud “Sit” announces long-lasting maidenhood.
When going to Christmas Eve midnight mass, girls would blindfold each other and touch fence pickets. A straight and smooth picket would portend a resourceful husband, while a crooked and rough one was an indication of a clumsy and awkward spouse. If a maiden wanted to learn about her future fiance’s profession, she would go to a river, dip her hand in the water and pull out the first thing she touched. Wood meant a carpenter, iron-a blacksmith, leather-a shoemaker, etc. Before going to bed, she’d wash her face with water without drying it. She would hang the towel on the footboard of her bed. The boy who passed her the towel in her dream was to become her husband.
Weather-forecasting superstitions were also popular. It was believed that if Christmas sees no snow, Easter certainly will-or more artfully, “If the Christmas tree sinks in water, the egg rolls on ice.” Other sayings include, “A sunny Christmas Eve brings fair weather all year round”; “Stars that shine bright on Christmas Eve will make hens lay plenty of eggs”; “A shine on the birth of our Savior will be seen all throughout January.”
From the small hours on Dec. 24, women were found cleaning and sweeping the entire house. An ancient belief had it that forces of evil would dwell in all things left dirty on that day. If the first person to enter a house on Christmas Eve was a woman, it was a bad omen, meaning that only heifers would be born in the farm in the coming year. It was a good sign when a man was the first to cross the threshold of the house.
At the Christmas Eve supper, each dish had to be sampled, and a traditional meal would consist of 12 dishes. The more you ate, the more pleasure would await you in the future. The more daring diners would pull out blades of straw from underneath the table cloth. A green one foretold marriage; a withered one-waiting; a yellow one-spinsterhood; a very short one-an early grave.
In pre-electricity times, after the last supper dish (which was kutia, a mix of soaked wheat, raisins, nuts, honey and spices) candles were blown out and the direction of the smoke was observed. If it moved toward the window-the harvest would be good, toward the door-a family member would die, toward the stove-a marriage.
Until recently, harvest fortune-telling was very popular in the countryside. After supper, the host would go out to the garden, carrying dried fruit. He would throw it on the trees, shouting “Apples, pears, plums, cherries, and all the leaves in the neighbor’s yard.” He would take a handful of straw and twist it into a rope. Grabbing an ax with other hand, he would approach a tree and threaten it by saying, “I’ll cut you down!” His wife would cry, “Don’t cut it, it will bear fruit!” Then she would tie the straw rope around the tree. This bizarre little pantomime apparently brought a good harvest.
Today, few people are familiar with Christmas Eve fortune telling, especially urban dwellers. Yet some old traditions can still be found among village people who tend to lead a more old-fashioned lifestyle, closely connected to nature and its cycles of death and rebirth.