Public holidays in Poland

by Maciek Bogdanski

Compared to other nations, we have a similar number of public holidays – days that we don’t go to work, and we celebrate it in specific ways. Some of them have fixed dates, but some depend on the year. Many public holidays in Poland have roots in Christian tradition, and we keep celebrating them despite growing secularism. Below, we mention only those days which are non-working days. It’s worth noting, that if a public, non-working holiday falls on Saturday, the employer has to declare another day as non-working day in his company.

New Year (Nowy Rok or Sylwester)

January 1

Although it’s January 1 which is officially set as a holiday, like the whole World, we start celebrating on New Year’s Eve – December 31. In big cities, people usually take part in some event – usually a concert – organised by the local authorities. Before midnight fireworks would start, but recently cities prefer laser lights instead, due to growing awareness of how harmful the noise of fireworks to animals is. At midnight we drink sparkled wine and share wishes on New Year.

Three Kings’ Day (Trzech Kroli)

January 6

On this day, the church celebrates the arrival of three Magi, who visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Most people don’t celebrate this day in other ways than writing letters K+M+B on their door with chalk. As this day is close to 1 January, people tend to go on Holiday at the beginning of January to take advantage of the two days off.

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Easter Monday (Poniedzialek Wielkanocny)

Does not fall on fixed date

Easter is celebrated for three days in Poland, but as the first two are Saturday and Sunday, we count only Monday as an extra day off. Easter Monday is also a Smigus Dyngus (Wet Monday) in Poland – a tradition of pouring water on other people, but it is no longer celebrated in that way by many. It is however still celebrated in rural areas.

Easter itself is celebrated with egg painting and food shining. Easter Sunday is also a non-working public holiday, but we don’t count it here as Sunday is non-working day anyway.

May Holidays (Weekend Majowy, Swieto Pracy, Dzien Konstytucji)

May 1 and 3

May 1 is International Workers’ Day. It used to be celebrated during the communist era with a big march. It is no longer celebrated like this, but as it’s the middle of spring in Poland, there are many outdoor activities organized either by cities or companies.

May 3 is the Constitution Day – we commemorate the May 3, 1791, when the Polish Constitution was voted. For the past few years, parades were organised in big cities, but there is no set way of celebrating that day,

What is most important, as those dates are close to each other, many people take some more days off and travel. During this time, you need to book accommodation or tickets in advance.

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Corpus Christi (Boze Cialo)

Does not fall on a fixed date, but always Thursday, usually in June

Corpus Christi is purely a Christian holiday, There are processions in every city and village in the morning/noon. If you need to drive on that day, it’s better to set off in the afternoon or use the highway/express way. Otherwise, you might be stuck in a traffic jam.

As this is always Thursday, many people take Friday off and travel. Just like in May, it’s better to book services in advance.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Pietnastego Sierpnia)

August 15

Although Christians celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on this day, many people just say it is August 15th. This is the middle of Polish summer, so many people are on holiday anyway. On that date, pilgrims gather in Czestochowa.

All Saints’ Day

November 1

This was initially a Christian holiday, now celebrated by many to honour all saints and remember deceased loved ones. Everyone visits cemeteries, often travelling across Poland. On that date and shortly before, there is increased Police activity on the roads

Independence Day (Swieto Niepodleglosci)

November 11

Poland commemorates the anniversary of the restoration of the country’s sovereignty in 1918 from the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires, after 123 years of no existence.

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The celebration of Independence Day is very controversial in Poland. It started as peaceful marches, but then turned into nationalist demonstrations. Nationalists, often using Nazi symbols, walk through Warsaw causing unrest and demolishing the infrastructure. Hopefully, this will change as the new government seems to be ready to fight it.

Christmas – (Boze Narodzenie)

December 25 and 26

Although the main celebration is always on Christmas Eve, it’s not a day off. However, many companies allow leaving earlier on this day. On Christmas Eve we dress the Christmas tree, put gifts under it and celebrate the supper. Traditionally there should be 12 dishes, but hardly anyone goes so far… After, or during supper, we unpack the gifts. There is a special mass at midnight in church (Scheperd’s Mass – Pasterka).

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