If you noticed more party goers carousing around the Rynek at the weekend, it certainly wasn't for no reason. It was last weekend before Andrzejki, or St. Andrewʼs Day, a unique Polish celebration that is just that little bit different.
Andrzejki is celebrated today (November 30th) and has picked up some unique rituals over the years.
In the middle of explaining the traditions of St. Andrewʼs, my Polish teacher started laughing self-consciously and said, “What, you donʼt have these strange traditions?” Which is Andrzejki in a nutshell: fun, interesting and a little bit quirky.
For the unfamiliar, St. Andrewʼs Dayʼs traditions are about fortune telling, with some drinking thrown in as well. Friends get together to speculate what will happen in the next year and to have one last party before the weeks leading up to December 24th. Since the fortune telling has roots in pagan ideas, some Poles refer to the day as "Polish Halloween".
On Andrzejki, there are a few ways to tell your future. One involves a candle, a key and cold water. Once youʼve lit your candle and have some extra hot wax, you pour the wax through the top hole in the key into the water (It helps if your key is old-fashioned, like a skeleton key). Then, you take the cooled wax shapes out of the water and hold them to the light to cast a shadow on the wall. There are no hard and fast rules for how the shapes will predict your future — part of the fun is inventing stories to explain your future. Does your wax look something like a dragon? Maybe youʼll be traveling to Krakow. Does it resemble money? Maybe youʼll be getting a promotion at work— or you might be going into debt.
Another tradition has people lining up there shoes leading to the door. People take turns arranging their shoes, one after the other. The lucky person whose shoe is closest to the door is the next to get married.
A final part of Andrzejki is the idea of a fast between now and Christmas. Similar to Lent, people are supposed to give up or cut down on something between now and December 24. And like Mardi Gras preceding Lent, St. Andrewʼs is also a day to live it up before the fast begins. Common things to give up include drinking, smoking and chocolate, but just until the 24th.
Just remember: have fun, and wear nice socks.