18 kwi 2010

Commemoration of the dead

I wanted to write about it after Easter but now after 7 days of the national mouring I have the more significant reason.

Many foreigners who spend more time in Poland notice that Polish people are very attached to the dead. Cemeteries aren't abandoned places and we visit them on many occasions without pressure, not only on the 1st and 2nd of November (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych i Dzień Zmarłych). This Easter I took a photo on one of the Warsaw's cemeteries:

Poles care about graves, clean them, decorate and spend a lot of money on flowers and candles. Unfortunately some people think that the more you buy the more feelings towards the dead person you show. In the smaller communities people even show off on the cemetery;) New style mourning candles are often kitsch (Polish kicz, adj. kiczowaty) and I'm not a fan of these:

Here you will find the information about contemporary Polish death and burial customs. This week you could have observed carefully planned ceremony of the burial of the president. It's amazing that 200 000 people came to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw just to see the coffin, pray and say goodbye. Poles prefer to be together in difficult moments but unfortunately rather only sad or dramatic events unite the nation. But it's too big topic for this post.

Today the president was buried in the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków - Polish symbolic place. For many it was too pompous and inappropriate as there are graves of Polish kings and the most worshiped poets. For sure it's meaningful and creates a new tradition.

In the past noble Poles had extraordinary funeral ceremonies, this is a fragment from Wikipedia about Sarmatism (XVII-XVIIIth century): "Funeral ceremonies in Sarmatian Poland were highly unusual, and unknown in other parts of Europe. They were carefully planned shows, full of ceremony and splendour. Elaborate preparations were made in the period between a nobleman’s death and his funeral, which employed a large number of craftsmen, architects, decorators, servants and cooks. Sometimes many months passed before all the preparations were completed. [...] Occasionally an army of clergy took part in the burial (in the 18th century 10 bishops, 60 canons and 1705 priests took part in the funeral of one of Polish noblemen)". This kind of celebrations had nothing to do with Christianity. Too expensive, too ostentatious, their aim was to show power and wealth of the elite.

When there was no Polish state funerals of the famous men often turned into patriotic manifestations. We inherit these both traditions.

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