In many countries, a special feast is celebrated to commemorate the dead. Also in Poland there is such a feast, on November 1 is celebrated All Saints' Day, which has its roots in the Middle Ages, and wich was appointed by Pope Gregory IV in 837. On this day, we go to the cemeteries to light the candles, put flowers on the tombstones of dead family members and friends. This is one of the most important days in Poland, it allows for a reflection on the fragility of human fate and memories of people who have passed away.
The memory of saints has its source in the cult of martyrs. The memory of those who gave their lives for faith was very much venerated, it was believed that the martyrs became close to God through death in the name of faith. At first, only Mary and martyrs were venerated, in the later centuries the cult of "all righteous" was also added. Nowadays, the priests emphasize that the All Saints' celebration concerns not only martyrs and saints, but also deceased relatives and friends.
In Poland, on November 1, candles are put on graves, people also pray for the dead. This custom is passed down from generation to generation. Even in the twentieth century, in some regions of Poland, especially for All Saints’ Day, special small breads were baked - as many as there was dead members of the family. They were later distributed to homeless people praying for the souls of the dead. One bread was also offered to the priest to pray for the souls of the dead that no one remembered. This custom grew out of pagan traditions.
An important day is also November 2, commonly known as “All Souls’ Day” or ”Zaduszki”. It has been celebrated since 998, when the Abbot Benedictines in Cluny in France, St. Odilon, ordered a feast that would be a counterweight to pagan rites worshiping the dead. The name of this holiday comes from its character - it is customary on All Souls’ Day to pray for the souls of our loved ones who died, and on All Saints’ Day for the saints already redeemed and for the martyrs.
The traditions that currently apply to All Saints’ Day and All Souls' Day in Poland have strong roots in the rites of “Dziady” (sometimes translated into English as Forefathers' Eve) - a pagan feast, during which people wished to make contact with the wandering souls of the dead. To this end, food was prepared for these souls so that they could reach peace, and fires were lit to illuminate their path. Nowadays, instead of campfires, we light candles and put flowers on graves.