Polish National Holidays Explained
Living in a foreign country, going to the shop finding everything is closed and you have no idea why? Happened to all of us! That’s why we’ve decided to sum up all the national holidays in Poland when everything is closed down.
Of course you can always find some restaurants and petrol stations opened during these days. Some local stores may be opened too but the decision about opening on national holiday or not is up to the owner.
A small hint : Żabka, Małpka and Fresh market stores are the ones usually opened on such days.
1st – New Year
This one doesn’t need explanation why everything is closed on the 1st of January:
January 6th – Epiphany
Also known as Three Kings’ Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. Eastern churches celebrate Epiphany on January 6th but in some western ones this day takes place on January 19th. The essence of the feast is the same for both traditions: the manifestation of Christ to the world, and the Mystery of the Incarnation.
In Poland, Epiphany, or “Trzech Króli” (Three Kings) is celebrated in grand fashion, with huge parades held welcoming the Wise Men, riding on camels accompanied by other animals from the zoo such as donkeys, goats, horses and sheep. The parades take place in Warsaw and all other major cities. The Three Kings pass out sweets, children process in renaissance wear, everyone is singing Xmas carols together, and all participants receive a paper crown to wear.
Poles take small boxes containing chalk, incense and a piece of amber to church to be blessed. Back at home, they inscribe “C+M+B” and the year with the blessed chalk above every door in the house, according to tradition, to provide protection against illness and misfortune. The letters, with a cross after each one, are said to stand either for a Latin expression “Christus mansionem benedicat” meaning “Christ bless this house.” They remain above the doors all year until they are dusted off or replaced by new markings the next year.
During Easter all stores are opened normally on Friday. On Saturday they are opened until 16:00. Some of the supermarkets are opened until 18:00 but usually they close around 16:00.
This is important and different in Poland – stores are closed whole Sunday and whole Monday.
Easter Monday is a day off work in Poland and it is a celebration called Wet Monday.
Traditionally, boys throw water over girls. This is accompanied by a number of other rituals, such as holding door-to-door processions, in some regions involving boys dressed as bears.
The origins of the celebration are uncertain, but it may date to pagan times. The use of water is said to evoke the spring rains needed to ensure a successful harvest later in the year.
1st May- International Workers Day
Most of the celebrations of this day are focused around Labor Day festivities such as speeches, discussions and marches. It is customary for labour activists to organize parades in cities and towns across Poland.
In Poland, 1st May is closely followed by May 3rd Constitution Day. These two dates combined often result in a long weekend called “Majówka”. People often travel, and “Majówka” is unofficially considered the start of barbecuing season in Poland. Between these two, on 2nd May, there is a patriotic holiday, the Day of Polish Flag.
3rd May – Constitution Day
The holiday celebrates the declaration of the Constitution of May 3, 1791.
The Constitution of May 3, 1791 is considered one of the most important achievements in the history of Poland, despite being in effect for only a year, until the Russo-Polish War of 1792.
Historians call it one of the earliest world’ constitutions.
The memory of the May 3 Constitution—recognized by political scientists as a very progressive document for its time—for generations helped keep alive Polish aspirations for an independent and just society.
In modern Poland, this day, free from work, sees many parades, exhibitions, concerts and public figure speeches attended by President of Poland and Prime Minister.
The official festivities in Warsaw or in other Polish cities in the presence of the President and important dignitaries would include flag flying, cannon salvos, reading of the constitution preamble, singing a patriotic songs, drill shows and annual military parade.
Green week – May/ June
The celebration takes place 49 days after Easter which is May/June.
It is an ancient Slavic fertility festival closely linked with the cult of the dead and the spring agricultural rites.
The whole celebration is around green, fresh plants. To prepare for a good harvest people used to make big fires and burn all the sacred herbs and decorate houses and gardens with lots of trees and flowers.
On the same day takes place The Christian holiday Pentecost which refers to the occasion of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ.
Corpus Christi – May/June
The Feast of Corpus Christi is a Latin Rite liturgical celebrating the belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasizes the joy of the institution of the Eucharist.
The celebration takes place 60 days after Easter which is May/June.
At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist, known as the Blessed Sacrament, is placed in a monstrance and is held by a member of the clergy during the procession.
By tradition, Catholics take part in a procession through the streets of a neighborhood near their parish following mass and pray and sing stopping by 4small altars built especially for this occasion on the streets. 4 altars symbolize 4 evangelists.
First in the procession are children, dressed in white, throwing flowers on the streets to show the love and gratitude for God.
15th August – Assumption of Mary & Armed Forces Day
It is a national holiday celebrated annually on 15 August in Poland, commemorating the anniversary of the 1920 victory over Soviet Russia at the Battle of Warsaw during the Polish–Soviet War.
The event is marked by military parades, equipment reviews, showcases and remembrances by all branches of the Polish Armed Forces across the country. One of the most prominent events of the day is in the capital Warsaw, which hosts a large military parade through the city’s center.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life according to beliefs. Religious parades and popular festivals are held to celebrate this day.
It is celebrated in Poland with a holy mess and parades especially in Jasna Góra where all the pilgrims arrive around this date.
1st November – All Saint’s Day
It is a festival celebrated on the 1st November in honor of all the saints, known and unknown.
Special church services are held to commemorate the saints in various towns and cities in Poland. Many people in Poland lay flowers and candles on the graves of deceased family members and friends in cemeteries. This tradition continues through to All Souls’ Day, which is on November 2, but it is not a public holiday.
The candles that are laid on graves are especially made so they can burn for many hours. It is believed that these candles help the departed souls find their way through the darkness.
11th November – Independence day
It is a national day in Poland celebrated on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Hapsburg Empire.
The 11th November date chosen is the one on which Józef Piłsudski assumed control of Poland.
The holiday was constituted in 1937 and was celebrated only twice before World War II. After the war, the communist authorities of the People’s Republic removed Independence Day from the calendar, but reclamation of independence continued to be celebrated informally on 11 November.
The celebration is about patriotic speeches, military parade with marshal Józef Piłsudski on the first horse and evening concerts.
During this day some riots occur led by far-right National Radical Camp and All-Polish Youth which sometimes cause notable violent incidents.
On 24th of December all stores are opened 8:00-14:00.
On 25th and 26th of December all stores are closed.