All Saints' Day is a very important national holiday in Poland.
It is on this day and the following day– All Souls Day– that people all over Poland go to the cemetery to pray and remember their loved ones who have died. People go to the cemetery with entire families.
Often younger family members who moved away return to their hometowns for this occasion.
For many people, it takes a whole day to visit all the graves in different cemeteries. Roads are often closed and people get stuck in traffic due to crowds trying to get to cemeteries.
In big cities, there is additional public transport on this day (buses, trams) going from one cemetery to another. This day is also a day free from school and work. Visiting the grave of a loved one usually includes many activities such as praying, decorating graves, lighting candles, and minor cleaning (for example, sweeping fallen leaves).
Cemeteries look the most beautiful after the sunset when all the lights shine bright in the darkness. Moreover, many people attend Mass and acquire plenary indulgences for their loved ones.
In the period preceding the holiday, parishes put out special cards at the entrances on which everyone can write the names of their loved ones who have already passed away and put the cards in special baskets.
After the holiday, each day at the beginning of the special Mass, Priests read names from a few cards, one by one, and then the Mass is celebrated with their intention. This usually lasts until Nov. 15 or until all the cards are read.
During this period, many charitable organizations, such as scouts and volunteers, clean the graves of unknown persons or those who don't have living family members.
Expeditions are also organized across the eastern border to Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania to take care of the graves of Poles who lived there before World War II. Of course, due to the war, such expeditions were partially halted.
It is a unifying moment for the whole nation as all people participate, young and old, even those who don't go to church every Sunday or consider themselves non-believers.
Here are photos and a video from this beautiful tradition:
Description of the photo above: The monument shown above is a memorial for unborn children.
In the photos below, the large crucifix is for all people - the ones who are forgotten and also the ones we cannot visit in the cemetery because their graves are too far away or in unknown places.
After visiting the graves of family members and friends, Poles often light an additional candle for those people in a designated place - usually under a big crucifix in the cemetery or next to the chapel.
Eternal Rest Prayer
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.