Poland is a country that observes many interesting and historic holidays throughout the year, Andrzejki is one of them. Andrzejki (also known as Saint Andrew’s Day) is celebrated on November 30th, though the festivities usually begin in the evening on November 29th.
Andrzejki: History and Traditions
For centuries, this day has been significant, especially for young unmarried women, as it was believed that Saint Andrew would provide information about their future husband. Many traditional games were played throughout the evening in attempt to find out who the young woman’s future beau would be.
The celebration of Andrzejki and predicting the future was first recorded in 1557. Centuries ago, the beliefs corresponding with this holiday were taken very seriously by young women. In modern times, Andrzejki has lost its sense of magic and evolved into a time of social merriment among friends.
Andrzjeki is also the imieny (name day) for those with the name Andrzej, which is one of the most popular names in Poland. Traditionally, this was also the final day for joyous festivities as December 1st marks the start of Advent in the Catholic church, which is observed by a time of fasting and prayer until the Christmas holiday.
Each region of Poland has their own unique activities and traditions to celebrate Andrzejki. Here are a few that you may find around the country.
Melting Wax Through a Key Hole
The most well known ritual from Andrzejki is the melting of wax through a key hole. In this tradition, a girl will melt the wax from a candle through the hole of an old fashioned, skeleton key. The wax will land into a bowl of cold water and the cooled wax will take shape. The wax is then taken and held in the light where it will cast a shadow upon the wall. The shadow is studied to look for signs of the girl’s future husband’s appearance or characteristics. Today this is sometimes still performed as a game for fun, but centuries ago this ritual was taken very seriously.
In this activity, all of the girls remove their left shoe and line them up from toe to heel. The shoe in the back of the line then moves to the front of the line and so on. The line of shoes will snake across the room until it reaches the threshold of the door. The girl whose shoe crosses the threshold first will be the first to get married.
Name Under Pillow
Before a girl went to sleep, she would write down names of boys, each on a different piece of paper. These papers were placed beneath her pillow. When the girl woke up the next morning, she would remove one piece of paper from under their pillow. This would reveal the name of her future husband.
Tossing Apple Peels
Girls will peel the skin from an apple and toss it backwards over their shoulder. When they go to look at the apple skin, they try and see which letter the shape most resembles. This letter will be the first letter of their future husband’s name. If no letter can be seen, it means the would not marry soon.
Pricking a Card With Names on the Back
This is a game that both men and women participate in. Two cards are taken, on one a list of boys names is written and on the other a list of girls name is written. Each person sticks a needle into the back side of the card. The name which is pierced by the needle is the name of their future spouse.
Another way a girl would discover her future husband was to interpret her dream from the night before Saint Andrew’s Day. The man who appeared in the dream is the man they would marry.
To find out which direction a future husband would arrive from, each girl would leave the house and try to listen for a dog barking. It is said that the direction the sound comes from is the same as the direction the future husband will come.
These are some of the most notable traditions celebrated on Andrzejki. Though it is celebrated differently in modern day, this historic holiday is still very significant in Polish culture.
Read more about Polish holidays and traditions.
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