Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welcome Spring!!!

It happended. The first day of spring, the 21st of March was two days ago. And that means that the warmth and brightness of spring will be with us for another three months ;). In Poland, the First Day of Spring is an important event with many customs and traditions. They have been all preserved from pagan times, when the Mother Earth was worshipped by the Slavs. Accompanying those customs were magical rituals believed to bring energy to homes and the joy of life and ensure a good harvest and success throughout the whole year. The most common and popular practice was (symbolizing the expulsion of winter) the drowning or burning straw effigy called Marzanna. After the ritual symbolic ban of winter, it was turn to welcome spring. Men used to ignite fires on the hills, which were expected to ensure the coming of spring and sunny days. Young people would set off to the meadows and the woods in search of willow and hazel - covered with buds - the so-called catkins or "Bazie". Women used to clean the whole house and bake special spring cakes. The most important, however, was painting eggs - a Proto-Slavic symbol of life, fertility and magical vital force. Easter egg was in fact a particular element of the magical rituals that was to provide health and fertility not only to the members of the household but also the animals. In some regions, a colourful processions consisting of both human and animals were organised in order to manifestate the fact that spring had come.

Customs are of course important but spring means also longer days, warm weather and smiling faces so let's cherish this beautiful time of year!!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Women's Day

Women’s Day is celebrated on 8th March. It’s a great occasion for men to show their respect to women – to give flowers or chocolates, to say how important they are to them. There are many votes against this holiday, but mainly because people don’t know its history.For many years Women’s Day was celebrated ostentatiously. Nowadays many man use to say that it was created by communists, and need to force themselves to give flowers, or any other gifts to women on 8th March. But in fact this holiday was “invented” by US women in 1909, before communism in Poland. Its history goes back to March 8th almost 150 years ago - in 1857 when women from New York City stopped work in protest of bad working conditions, a long working day (12 hours), and low pay. The march that started in a poor neighborhood was brutally broken up by police when the women reached the wealthy district of town. A similar march took place 50 years later; this one was triggered by the death of 126 women killed when they were trapped on a high floor in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. Their slogan was "bread and roses" -"bread" for economical security and "roses" for a better life. The remembrance of this day was eventually adopted by a conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen in 1910, the year when Women's Day was created.

In our country it started to be celebrated after the Second World War, it matched to the socialistic propaganda, that’s why a lot of us call it the communistic holiday and refuse to celebrate it. Throughout Communism in Poland, this day of the woman was very important and was celebrated with the most possible attention, because it went well with the propaganda of success, so much liked by the socialist power. The Polish women were thus honoured obligatorily by their partner, and received flowers and symbolic gifts. At schools, the pupils thanked their teachers by offering flowers and gifts (for example "laurki" - the hand made cards by the youngest were very current). The men colleagues offered flowers to their women colleagues. This traditional day was officially suppressed in Poland in 1993. In spite of that, many people still celebrate it, even today. What can be interesting: in particular the younger generations are favourable and for a few years, the interest for the International Day of the Women in Poland has increased. Obviously, that does not mean that Polish men offer flowers to their favourite women (as well their wives, mothers, daughters or sisters, colleagues) only on the 8th of March. Quite the contrary, because Polish men are very courteous and polite!!!