Today is the Fat Thursday, the last Thursday of the carnival. I’ve posted about it some time ago so I won’t repeat it. Suffice to say, I have already eaten three doughnuts with rose marmelade today :)
I know that some foreigners visiting Poland are surprised seeing Christmas decorations in late January. To tell the truth, I’m surprised seeing Christmas decorations in November. Traditionally, in Poland Christmas trees are put up just a few days before Christmas Eve or on the Eve itself and they are kept at homes until the 2nd of February. This year I saw some workers putting down street decorations in Kraków as late as last Monday (4thFeb). And the exhibition of traditional Cracovian nativity scenes (szopki) is open until 24th Feb!
In Polish churches the end of Christmas season is marked by the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple on 2nd Feb, which is here called Święto Matki Bożej Gromnicznej (Candlemas). This is one of the abundance of feasts dedicated to Holy Mary. Mary brought Jesus to the Temple and Jesus is the Light of the World, hence the association of Holy Mary and the light of the candles. As a result, on the 2nd of February candles are brought to church, blessed and then carried back home to protect it against all evil. In many Catholic families the candle is always lit at the deathbed, and I associate it mostly with peaceful passing away. In the past, however, it was believed that the light of the candle protects not only against evil spirits but also against physical dangers such as storms or wolves so it used to be frequently displayed in the windows when people feared something. Even the name of the candle (gromnica) is derived from this tradition: grom means thunder.
Above you can see the picture of Holy Mary protecting homes against wolves (painted by Piotr Stachiewicz).