Holidays in Poland
As a deeply religious country, many important days on the Catholic calendar are public holidays, with the church becoming the main center of life in various cities, towns, and villages.
New Year’s Day. 1 January, a state holiday marked by celebrations with family and friends, or nursing hangovers from the day before.
Epiphany. 6 January, a religious holiday commemorating the infant Jesus being presented to the Three Kings. Most businesses will be closed.
Easter. A movable feast scheduled to the lunar calendar, usually in March or April. Like Christmas, it is primarily a meaningful Christian holiday. On the Saturday before Easter, churches offer special services in anticipation of the holiday, including blessings of food; children especially like to attend these services, bringing small baskets of painted eggs and candy to be blessed by a priest. On Easter Sunday itself, practicing Catholics go to morning mass, followed by a celebratory breakfast made of foods blessed the day before. On Easter Sunday, shops, malls, and restaurants are commonly closed.
Easter Monday. A holiday with pagan roots, where groups of kids and teens wander around, looking to soak each other with water. Often groups of boys will try to catch girls, and vice versa, but innocent passers-by are not exempt from the game, and are expected to play along. Common “weapons” include water guns and water balloons, but children, especially outdoors and in the countryside, like to use buckets and have no mercy on passers-by. (Drivers, this means keep your windows up or you’re likely to get soaked.)
May Day. 1 May, known also as Labor Day is largely a quiet affair of barbecues and rest. While some demonstrations by socialists occur, since the end of communism, most Poles shun the original political aspect of the day. Many workers and families make the most of the week by making a longer holiday, as Constitution Day follows just two days later.
Constitution Day. 3 May, in remembrance of the Constitution of 3 May 1791, a highly poignant symbol of national identity and ideals. Most businesses are closed on this day, with patriotic marches held in several cities.
Pentecost Sunday. Seventh Sunday after Easter, marked by religious observances.
Corpus Christi. Ninth Thursday after Easter, marked by solemn Catholic observances across the country, with most businesses closed.
Day of the Assumption, 15 August, celebrates the passing of the Virgin Mary to heaven, and marked with Catholic morning religious services. The day also coincides with Armed Forces Day, celebrating the defeat of the Soviet Army at Warsaw in 1920, with military parades and equipment reviews across the country, with Warsaw holding the largest event. A public holiday with most businesses closed.
Harvest End Day. Traditional holiday celebrated in rural areas in August or September. People use to make decoration from crops. It’s associated with religious part but mostly with fun and live music.
All Saints Day.1 November. In the afternoon people visit the graves of their relatives to light candles. After dusk, cemeteries picturesquely glow with thousands of lights. If you have the chance, be sure to visit a cemetery to witness this holiday. Many restaurants, malls, and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual on this holiday.
National Independence Day. 11 November, commemorating Poland‘s 1918 declaration of independence, after 123 years of foreign rule by the Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian empires. Since the 2000s, the day has become one of heated nationalist protests in Warsaw that have turned violent on several occasions. In the rest of the country, the holiday is normal, marked with parades and flags. As with other holidays, most businesses will be closed on this day.
Christmas Eve and Christmas. December 24th, 25th and 26th. One of the most important holidays of the year, its eve is definitely the year’s most important feast. According to Catholic tradition, celebration of liturgical feasts starts in the evening of the preceding day. In Polish folklore, this translates into a special family dinner, which traditionally calls for a twelve course meatless meal (representing the twelve apostles), beginning in the evening, after the first star can be spotted in the night sky. On Christmas Eve most stores will close around 2-3pm; on Christmas Days people will still usually stay home, and everything apart from essential services will be closed with public transport will be severely limited, on the Second Day of Christmas less so.
New Year’s Eve. 31 December. Party night of the year. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you can get into even a decent club as most clubs will be packed. Most clubs will sell tickets in advance, but you’ll probably have to dish out at least 150PLN and that’s just for entrance and maybe a couple of drinks. If you’re a little more flexible, you might be able to get into non-club parties. Otherwise, there are always the firework displays to entertain you.