When you are moving to a new country, you want to gather as much information about it, as possible. That’s why in this article we will enlist and briefly describe all public holidays in Poland: each year we have 13 days of legal holidays – and that number includes 4 days of moveable feasts.
What is closed on public holidays:
Schools and universities, shopping malls, supermarkets, retailers, bakeries, showrooms, bookstores, banks, post offices, all the business centers and public offices, libraries, museums, galleries, swimming pools, most of the entertainment facilities, beauty parlors, clinics, etc.
What is opened on public holidays:
Gas stations, grocery stores and franchised shops owned by local businessmen, some pharmacies, parks; depending on the holiday: coffee shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms.
If you are planning something, make sure to check opening hours because they may differ from regular ones!
*Hospitals – in each city, there are some dedicated hospitals with accident and emergency department that work on holidays, but not every hospital has an ER! And generally, they are full of patients, so you will be waiting long hours for an admission – better watch out!
What days are celebrated and free from work, school, and university?
1 stycznia – Nowy Rok: New Year’s Day
Celebrated on 1 st of January in the majority of countries and Poland is not an exception here! Basically all the shops are closed, so when you are buying alcohol to get say a proper goodbye to the ending year on New Year’s Eve with your Polish friends, don’t forget to buy some painkillers, the reasonable amount of water and other stuff that will help you deal with a hangover – check out our advises for how to recover from a tough party here!
6 stycznia – Święto Trzech Króli
In the majority of Catholic countries, this holiday is known as Ephiphany – but in Poland, it is called the Three Kings Holiday as it celebrates the fact that three Magi (Kacper, Melchior, and Baltazar – Polish pronunciation) came to Baby Jesus bearing gifts: myrrh, gold, and incense. On that occasion, church goers visit their parishes to consecrate chalk, incense, and water. These items will be useful when priests will visit them at home, to give a
blessing to them and their households (which happens after 6th of January.) People who want to welcome priests in their apartments, let them know about it by putting initials of Three Kings (K+M+B) on their doors. In fact, a tour around a parish usually takes a few weeks, so don’t be surprised if you see some clergymen on your block even at the beginning of February!
6th of January was a labour-free day in Poland till 1960 when communist authorities abolished it. It came back as a holiday after 50 years – and it has been celebrated in Poland since 2011!
Pierwszy dzień Wielkiej Nocy i drugi dzień Wielkanocy – Easter Sunday and Easter Monday(a.k.a. Dyngus Day)
Easter is technically the most important holiday for Christians, even
though it is far less popular (and commercialized) than Christmas. It commemorates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – the event described in the New Testament. The feast lasts for two days (Sunday&Monday) and it is concluding the “Holy Week” that anticipates Jesus’ death.
We will prepare another article entirely devoted to Polish Easter traditions, but what you need to know now, is that it is a moveable feast – and it is quite difficult to calculate when it will occur each year (according to the oldest tradition, Easter Sunday should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first spring’s full moon.) In practice, it always takes place between 22nd of March and 25th of April.
1 maja – Święto Państwowe – Labour Day
Is an international holiday, created during s 1889’s congress of socialist and labour parties (The Second National), that celebrates the people of the working class. It commemorates the first official strike of people of working-class that went off in Chicago in 1886 and was brutally shut down by police. In Poland it became a national holiday in 1950 and there was a – bitter and sorrowful – time in a history of our country, when taking part in the celebration of this holiday (which included marching in official processions carried out by authorities) was obligatory and avoiding it could have had serious (if not disastrous) consequences. Calm down though! Nowadays, we greet this holiday with pure delight – because usually, it is a part of a long (or very long) weekend as it is set only one day apart from another Polish holiday – the 3 May Constitution day – and the weather is beautiful at that time of the
3 maja – Święto Narodowe Trzeciego Maja – 3 May Constitution Day (or 3rd May National Holiday)
Commemorates the events of 1791, when the first Polish Constitution was declared. Did you know that our constitution was the second one proclaimed in Europe and the third one worldwide? The famous first French constitution was adopted only on 3 rd of September, so exactly 4 months after the Polish one! On this day all Polish people hang flags in their windows and in all cities, councils hold official commemoration ceremonies (they may change the organization of city transport!) Check out which day of the week 1 st & 3 rd of May fall on – if you are lucky, you will be able to plan a very long – and very cool – Polish weekend!
Pierwszy dzień Zielonych Świątek (Whitsun) / Zesłanie Ducha Świętego (Pentecost)
Although Pentecost is a moveable religious holiday that celebrates the descendance of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, it is actually linked to some pre-Christian traditions which originate from the areas inhabited by Slavic tribes. That’s the reason why this holiday is known under a double name: Pentecost, and Whitsun (yet, Whitsun – Zielone Świątki – is more popular: even among Catholics). Pentecost falls on Sunday that occurs 49&50 days after Easter – so in May or June.
Slavic people’s celebration revolved around soil’s fertility and required burning fires and decorating houses with green twigs and flowers – these rituals would win over the gods and guarantee abundant harvests. The tradition of bringing gifts of Nature to Higher Powers was not totally abandoned – nowadays on Whitsun people make small bouquets and garlands from flowers, grass leaves, and twigs, and take them to church to consecrate them. Traditionally, this holiday is most important to farmers and croppers.
Dzień Bożego Ciała – Corpus Christi
Another Catholic, moveable holiday, and it takes place on first Thursday after the Trinity Sunday (or, to locate it in time more precisely for you, the second Thursday after Pentecost/Whitsun that we have just discussed above) and celebrates the Real Presence of Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist (a long name, we’re aware!) The date of Corpus Christi is most generally related to the date of Easter, and thus, usually it falls on one of Thursdays in June – which means it constitutes a long weekend at the end of the academic semester: very often just before the exam session! So even if you don’t celebrate this holiday personally, you may be very thankful for it! On that day, processions are held around Churches (in at least one parish for a city) so if you happen to buy a plane ticket for this day, make sure to leave for the airport much earlier than you would normally do – some streets may be closed and the route can be much longer than usual!
15 sierpnia – Wniebowzięcie Najświętszej Maryi Panny (Assumption of Mary) / Święto Wojska Polskiego (Armed Forces Day)
This day is both a religious and a secular holiday: Catholics celebrate the fact that Virgin Mary was bodily taken up into Heaven (Assumption of Mary), while Polish people, in general, commemorate the anniversary of the victory over Soviet Forces in 1920’s battle of Warsaw, which took place during the Polish-Soviet War (Armed Forces Day). Not everyone knows it is a double holiday, so if you point out to a Polish person that on this day we honour the fact that Polish Army has beaten foreign troops while being on the verge of defeat (the reason why the battle is also referred to as ‘Miracle of the Vistula’ will surely score you some points! For political reasons, the Armed Force Day was banned from 1947 to 1992, but now we are able to celebrate it again. Expect military parades and some great air force demonstration on that day!
1 listopada – Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints Day)
If you are used to painting the town red on Halloween, you may be pleased to hear that the next day we have a public holiday in Poland. Yes, we follow the Christian tradition of commemorating all saints, known and unknown, with All Saints Day on 1 st of November. On that day we keep it low profile: we take our families and go to lit candles on graves of the loved ones, who are no longer with us. Although technically “ All Souls Day” does not happen until 3 rd of November, since 1 st of November is an official holiday, most of us choose this day to visit and honour our relatives, friends, and other important people who passed away. On that evening (or late afternoon when it gets darker) you can take a stroll around a cemetery– all of them are beautifully floodlit and far less scary. This is the right time for some self- reflection.
11 listopada – Narodowe Święto Niepodległości – National Independence Day
On that day we celebrate our return to sovereignty after 123 years of foreign annexation. At the end of 18th century the partitions of Poland took place: after our country was divided between German, Austrio-Hungarian, and Russian Empire, it disappeared from the map of Europe for a very long time. These was a pretty dark and difficult period in the history of Polish people. We did not gain recognition as a country until 1918 – the year in which WWI ended and the Treaty of Compiegne was signed. 11 th of November became a national holiday in 1937, but it was abolished in 1945,
when Soviet Union assumed authority over Poland after the World War II. The holiday was again restored in 1989 as transformations of political systems in eastern Europe occurred. On that day you can expect official ceremonies and military parades, as well as citizen’s marches that take
place in all bigger cities.
If you’d like to join one of the marches, ask your local friends for advice on which one to choose, because lately, they tend to have political overtones.
25 grudnia & 26 grudnia – pierwszy i drugi dzień Bożego Narodzenia (Christmas)
Like in all Catholic countries, in Poland we put quite a lot of stress on Christmas, the celebration of Baby Jesus’s birth! Only first and the second day of Christmas (respectively 25th and 26th of December) are public holidays, but also on a Christmas Eve some places (including private businesses) are closed, and the others have shorter opening hours (much closer we should add!): shops can be opened no longer than till 2 p.m. and many of them decide to actually close at noon. In fact, while in the majority of European countries the most celebrated is the first day of Christmas, for us probably the most important moment of Christmas is Christmas Eve’s dinner. However, we will reveal you the whole truth about Polish Christmas and its traditions in a separate article!
You’re staying for Christmas in Poland? Don’t worry! There are so many expats living in Erasmus-friendly cities that for sure you can find some people to celebrate these days with!
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