Our protestant church in Tucson celebrates All Saints’ Day. The names of deceased loved ones are tied to a tall bell banner that’s part of the procession into the sanctuary the first Sunday in November. We read the names of church members who have died within the last year, a bell chiming with the reading of each name.
The sermon will most likely focus on the saints who have gone before, but that’s pretty much it, and that is more recognition of the day than most Americans will have. My first All Saints’ Day in Poland was different.
I knew to expect much more on November 1st. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in Poland, this seems to be a holiday on par with Christmas and Easter.
Businesses are closed. People travel great distances to spend the day with family. Our local public transportation announced that they would be adding trams and buses to accommodate the holiday traffic in the city.
A friend told me that mass on this day is considered obligatory. The purpose being to pray for dead relatives, so that any souls that are in purgatory might move closer to heaven. This isn’t just a day of remembrance. There is work (if I can use this word referring to prayer) to be done.
It seems to me that this is a tremendous responsibility, and yet this is my friend’s favorite holiday. Families gather in cemeteries to pray. They attend mass at the cemeteries and in churches. They share a meal with extended family.
Because November 1st fell on a Tuesday the first year I was in Poland, many took Monday off too. We took advantage of the long weekend by organizing and delivering the paperwork for our resident permits on Monday. Tuesday evening, we visited the Citadel, a former fortress, the place of a series of military cemeteries from both World Wars.
I wish you could see the beautiful glass lanterns lit by candle light. There will be hundreds sold at every supermarket. People will buy them for their loved ones, but also to leave on the graves of people they didn’t know. Tombstones from from all nationalities will be decorated.
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We arrived after dark, which I think was about 5:30, under the glow of street lights. Once we left the sidewalk, the graveside candles provided the only light. Fortunately, there were hundreds of them.
To give you a feel for how dark it was, the photos in this post were taken with very long exposures, up to 25 seconds. There was a steady stream of people walking through the cemetery, some still bringing more candles and lighting them.
On our way home, we stopped by the rynek. It was kind of eerie to see it so deserted, only one or two pedestrians crossing the square. A few of the bars and restaurants were open; we stopped by Brovaria for a light snack and one of their seasonal hot beers.
PS – see how this compares to an All Soul’s remembrance in Tucson.