Being Polish, the day after Halloween always held something special. Not something festive. Something once again, as all Polish holidays are, ancient, deep rooted, symbolic, important.
In Poland, today is filled with people either taking off work or making a personal priority for this day. Today is filled with cemeteries being visited, gravestones swept, washed and scrubbed, flowers and plants around each resting place tended.
Today is a day of Mass. My older daughter goes to Catholic school and the toddler and myself attended Mass today along with the entire school and other community members.
At the entrance, an elderly lady told the school children who were entering the church, "If you pray for me, I'll pray for you" and beamed when the children in chorus replied "Yes, Ma'am." I silently beamed as well, knowing that my older daughter was somewhere in that group acknowledging an elderly person and replying with respect to them.
I held the door open with my toddlers help for some elderly people to enter the church and they gushed at how precious my little one was as she pushed the door and called "I do it! I big!"
While my toddler wiggled around and looked at a pretty colored piece of folded paper with the Mass Responses, I kept one eye on her and the other on the service.
The school children's voices rose with the various songs and responses. There was a quiet hush as several hundred children listened quietly without talking or moving around as Father delivered his sermon about the various Saints and as several school children presented short prayers to various Saints.
The prayers that stood out to me were to Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants. The child's voice presenting her struck me "Pray for the immigrants that they may live a happy and fulfilling life".
The other prayer which was a prayer uttered every Mass in every Catholic church, no matter the day, "that our country's leaders may protect us and lead us to a world of greater justice and peace".
When it was time to offer up our prayers, I prayed for the strength and wisdom to be a good mother to my children and find and keep my patience. That my two Dziadki and my Babcia who had passed away will rest in peace. That my husband's Busia may rest in peace and that his Grandpop may as well. And that I, selfishly, may have more time to see my Babcia before she passes away. And I send an apology to my departed grandparents that I am sorry we didn't get to spend time together in life.
After school, I plan on taking my two daughters to a local cemetery. We will tend to a few abandoned graves and light candles on them. We will say prayers that they may rest in peace. And that some one out there is tending the graves of our own beloved who had passed away. My husband's family buried in Maryland and my own buried throughout Poland.
In Maryland, we would go to Mass at our local Polish Catholic Church, Holy Cross. A part of that Mass involved visiting the church's cemetery, special services and tending the graves and lighting the candles.
I am out here in Illinois now. There will not be anyone out there at the cemetery, I'm sure. Definitely nobody I know. So, I will have to do it on my own, holding my children's hands and hoping that they grow up carrying on this tradition.
I know one of my cousins is tending today to the graves of my grandparents on my father's side. And I will send up a prayer to God thanking him for that. And hoping that they all know how much I love them and miss them every single day.
Today is a day of mourning.
It isn't the anticlimactic end to Halloween. It isn't a day of candy and goodies. And it isn't for us, the Day of the Dead, full of festivities and food and celebration. It's a day of prayer and of letting out all the feelings I hold inside of missing my family. And not being able to be with them.
One day, I pray that I can tend their graves and light candles over them. And that they know I love them.
I leave you with some videos that capture the spirit of today.
A Brit's explanation...
And if you speak Polish...
I will share pictures of our lit candles either later today or tomorrow...
What do you do today?
Note: Traditional Polish lanterns for use on All Saints' Day can be purchased at dom itp.
Disclaimer: An affiliate sale link is used in this post for those looking to purchase lanterns as is traditionally used on this holiday.
You might find interesting:
General Prayer and Reflection for Catholics
An Explanation of All Saints Day and All Souls Day in Poland
From Transparent Language's Polish Blog Święto Pamięci Zmarłych – All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day