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What do you mean “Halloween?”

Posted by on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 in Study Abroad, Traditions.

Being in Poland, Halloween was far from my mind this year, and in fact, it’s quite the controversy in Poland. However, I did enjoy a phenomenal weekend at my family’s, celebrating a holiday that takes place at the exact same time.

This is the first and only bit of Halloween Decorations I saw in Kraków... today...

On November 1st, Poland celebrates All Saints’ Day, sometimes called Day of the Dead. This holiday is one of the most important days in the year. Therefore, Halloween really doesn’t take place, and it’s a bit of a controversy even. Although, I’ll admit, I was shocked whenever in my Polish language class, everyone stated that they had noticed the supposed Halloween decorations in Kraków. My first thought? “What Halloween decorations?” Yeah, it’s certainly nothing like America!

Anyways, onto All Saints’ Day! This is one of those weekends that everyone in the country essentially travels. In some way. Especially college students. How come? Well, people return to their home towns to celebrate the holiday with their families. After all, this day is dedicated to those who have passed on. Therefore, families spend the entire weekend together, cleaning up graves, wiping them down, clearing them of surrounding leaves, setting up candles and flowers. It’s a weekend dedicated to remembering our ancestors.

You can see all lots of families heading to the local cemetery.

Yesterday, I visited the cemetery with my uncle, my aunt, my cousin, her husband, and their nearly two-year-old son. We went to my grandfather’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s grave first, as that was the side of the family I was spending my time with. I have walked through that cemetery multiple times, but never have I had so much trouble getting through it as yesterday. The amount of people. Unbelievable! In fact, it’s such an important holiday, police prepare their forces for it and do their best to ensure tranquility. We also went to visit my mom’s side of the family. Her mom’s side and her dad’s side. I bought a candle for each grave, and lit each one respectively.

Buying candles for family graves.

This weekend, though, I realized something. Oftentimes, studying abroad is an opportunity to discover yourself in ways you never considered before. For me, this entire experience has taught me so much more about the value of family and about my family. For example, I’ve been learning all about relatives I never knew of, what happened to them during the wars and Communist era, and how difficult it really was to keep a family together in Poland during certain times. It makes you realize how fortunate we are today. Being a click away from ensuring the safety of our loved ones, whether by e-mail, or better yet, Facebook!

So, in conclusion, may all those who have passed on rest in peace, and may those of us still alive remember our loved ones fondly. <3

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