All Saints Day is also Day of the Dead In Poland, it's a national holiday. Yesterday, the first of November, we were in the countryside outside Krakow and experienced a little bit of it.We knew that it was a big deal - our friend Piotr told us about it - but we had thought that it was going to be centered around a few religious sites, or in a few towns. We didn't realize that we were going to see hordes of people near every cemetery. There were makeshift parking lots set up along roadsides, scores of candle and flower vendors. We had to slow down in every town, people were clogging the roads. As it got closer to dusk, and we were heading home for the day, the crowds began to dissipate a little. We were able to find a spot to park in the town of Chrobrego and we walked down to the village graveyard.
There were still a lot of people there, and most graves were covered with candles and flowers. It was a semi-somber gathering of people. The clothes were clearly "sunday best," and voices were hushed - but people were smiling to each other and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Some graves were more decorated than others. People travel long distances, we've heard, to visit the graves of relatives and many make journeys to more than one cemetery. They place candles on the graves so that the spirits of the dead can make their way through the night.
The candles were beautiful, especially as the sun set. The whole place was lit up, the bouquets were illuminated in strange ways and the breeze began to die down. As we were leaving, it was almost silent.
Daylight savings time happens earlier here, and it has been getting dark very suddenly. Driving home we passed a few more graveyards, all of them lit up, the candles very bright amongst the stones and trees. It was a surreal, beautiful experience.