Readers expecting a wild time of week-long costume parties and rollicking Halloween debauchery may be shocked to discover a rather sobering, sombre scene the during the evenings of November 1st and 2nd in Poland. Known nationally as All Saints’ Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych) and All Souls’ Day (Dzień Zaduszny, or Dzień Wszystkich Zmarłych) respectively, these two days of the calendar year are dedicated to prayer and paying tribute to the deceased by visiting their graves. In accordance with tradition, Catholic families all over Poland will make pilgrimages to the resting places of their relatives, tending the graves with a care that is truly touching, before laying wreaths, flowers and candles that will be kept lit throughout the length of the holiday. As night descends, the country’s graveyards are aglow with the warm light of literally thousands of flickering candles, creating an eerie, incredibly evocative atmosphere that should not be missed by anyone with a heart that still beats.
Although visitors to Wrocław may not have ancestors buried here, a trip to one of the city’s cemeteries during this unforgettable ceremony is, indeed, requisite. While we could wax poetic about the unearthly glow of the immense candlelight, the murmur of prayer and psalms, the subtle smells of the incense, fresh flowers and burning wax, the shades of ravens in the trees, the wet grass and mists, and the surreal duality of the supernaturally charged, yet tranquil atmosphere, we’d prefer you just experience it for yourself. We also challenge you to find a lonely, unlit grave and place a candle on it (it won't be easy).
Though the ceremony symbolically lasts for two days, only November 1st is officially a public holiday; as such, you can expect Wrocław's restaurants, shops and bars to be bolted shut. The city's Catholic cemeteries, by contrast, will be open until last guest, and we've listed those closest to the centre below so that you too can join in this inspiring tradition.