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garland floating in Krakow
Wreath floating is Krakow's ancient summer-solstice tradition.

Folk Customs of the Krakow Region. 

Krakow region has always been rich in colorful folk traditions, handed down from generation to generation, with almost every village cultivating its own set of time-honored customs. Nowadays, as new lifestyles spread, some ancient practices are dead but many flourish. 

 

‘Kolednicy’ carol singers, mostly children, wander with a Christmas crib from door to door over the holiday season. In reward for chanting a couple of Polish traditional noels they get some change. In the past the kolednicy used to be adult and they performed an elaborate Nativity puppet show.

‘Turon’ is a mask representing the head of the wild bull (Polish ‘tur’), embodying the dark forces of nature. In the first weeks of year boys in funny disguises roam the neighborhood with it, romping and bantering.

‘Babski Comber’ (female haunch) was a 3-day bacchanalia on Krakow streets launched by the rampant crowd of women, mostly vendors from the outskirts that took over the city center on the last Tuesday before the Lent. Frantic females pranced on the Grand Square, ridiculed males, and forced passers-by into dancing with them. The custom dating from the Middle Ages died out in 1852 but recently there have been efforts to revive it as a carnival parade.

‘Pukhery’ (from the Latin ‘puer’, for boy) tradition sets teenagers with blackened faces and decked in tall straw hats going from door to door on Palm Sunday with comic orations that earn them small gifts.

‘Smigus’ means Poland’s universal custom of splashing over one another with water on the Easter Monday. In the past village boys used to drench girls for good luck in finding a husband, whipping them first with willow rods.

‘Smigusnicy’ masqueraders, usually sporting mock-military uniforms, wander the neighborhoods on the Easter Monday. One place they push a wheelbarrow with tiny flower garden and sing an ancient song about souls rambling meadows. Elsewhere they carry an image of Christ Resurrected and sing a medieval song about barefoot Mother of God fetching well-water and asking children at a green meadow if they saw Her Son. Those masqueraded as a hag play pranks and demand a token ransom from passers-by.

‘Wianki’, or wreaths floating, is part of the all-night open-air festivities by bonfires on St. John’s Day, June 24, celebrating the summer solstice. Girls put flower-and-magic-herbs garlands adrift down a river and watch. If a boy snatches your wreath, you will marry soon. If it sinks, you will die young. And whenever it couples with another girl’s wreath you may count on a life-long friendship.

‘Zielone Swiatki’ Whitsunday feast is the occasion for joyful gatherings at night by numerous bonfires.

‘Dozynki’ harvest festivals amount to yearly summer fiestas in August when villagers celebrate their new grain crop.

Krakow in Poland


Krakow Festivals
Hardly a month passes in Krakow without some time-honored occasion for common festivities or colorful celebration.

Lajkonik pageant in Krakow, Poland

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