The Polish culture has greatly evolved over the years having been influenced by the geographic location of the country at the confluence of European regions with their distinct cultures. The earliest culture of Poland traces its origin to the culture of the Early Slavs who settled in the country. The Poles have always welcomed artists from abroad and adopted cultural trends of other countries to enrich their own lively cultural scene.
7. Social Beliefs And Customs
The society in Poland exhibited a high degree of stratification before 1939. The killing of a large section of the Polish intelligentsia by the Nazis and the Communists during and after World War II greatly reduced the rigid social stratification in the country. During communist rule, educational and economic advancement of the Polish worker and peasants were fostered. During this time, large-scale migration of the rural population to Polish cities was observed. Currently, the Polish society has 6 groupings. The peasants and workers constitute the majority of the population. There is also an intelligentsia whose population is steadily increasing as is the population of workers. The ruling class or nomenclatura that held the ruling power during the Communist rule in Poland is striving to regain power in the country. Around 10 to 15% of the Polish population is composed of the nobles or the gentry called the szlachta. However, their significance has nearly been eliminated in the modern Polish society.
Marriage plays an important role in the Polish society. In the past, men and women who crossed their “marriageable age” (twenty for women and late 20’s for men) were subjected to mockery. Most marriages were arranged and divorces were rare and looked down upon. However, over the years, the traditional views have changed and marriages are now based more on the consent of couples than the family and divorces have also become more common than before. Traditionally, the Polish households have been large with three generations living under the same roof. However, nuclear families are more common now and so are families with single parents. Historically pregnant women are expected to observe a number of taboos like not looking at fire, mice and the disabled to avoid harm to the baby. Pregnancy is kept secret as long as possible to guard against the evil eye. However, many of these beliefs and observances have currently vanished from modern Polish society but are still prevalent in the conservative households in the country. Children are taught to be polite and the Polish society stresses a lot on polite behavior. The father holds absolute authority and must be obeyed by the children. The Poles place great importance on gentle manners and graceful behavior.
As the cities in Poland grew during the Middle Ages, the food markets of the country flourished and culinary exchange of ideas also grew. Vodka became a popular alcoholic drink since then. Poland is also one of the largest beer producers in Europe and a beer consumer in Poland drinks 92 liters of beer annually. Another popular alcoholic drink is the Polish mead which is a honey wine produced in the country since the Middle Ages. Among the non-alcoholic beverages, the Kompot is an indigenous drink that is produced by boiling one or more types of fruits with or without the addition of sugar and spices. It can be served hot or cold. Some everyday Polish foods include kiełbasa (a type of sausage), pierogi (filled dumplings), pyzy (dough balls filled with meat), kopytka (potato dumpling), gołąbki (cabbage leaves wrapped around meat and rice), bigos (stewed meat and cabbage), etc. Several types of soups like rosół, flaki, and zupa ogórkowa are also part of the Polish cuisine. Wigilia is a popular Christmas Eve supper consumed in Poland.
The traditional clothing of the Polish people varies greatly with their location in the country. Although most people in the country wear modern Western outfits in their daily lives, the traditional attire is worn during cultural festivals, weddings, religious events, harvest celebrations, and other special occasions. In the Kraków region of Lesser Poland, women wear elaborate traditional dresses that comprise of a white blouse, an embroidered vest, an apron, and a full floral skirt. Lace-up boots and a coral bead necklace complete the look. The headgear consists of a floral wreath in the case of unmarried women while the married ones tie a white kerchief. Men also dress well and adorn a heavily embroidered waistcoat, striped trousers, and an ornamented krakuska cap. Other regions of Poland have their own folk costumes with most involving a display of vibrant colors, embroidery, ornamentation, lace aprons, beaded jewelery, and elaborate headgears.
4. Music And Dance
Poland has a lively music scene with the roots of the country’s music being traced as far back as the 13th century. Mikołaj z Radomia was the first noted Polish composer who lived in the 15th century. Bóg się rodzi, Bogurodzica are some of the oldest musical compositions originating in Poland. Witold Lutosławski and Henryk Górecki are two of the most famous Polish classical Modern Composers. Krzysztof Komeda was a famous Jazz musician from the country who composed several movie soundtracks. Poland is also known for its electronic dance music with Vader being the most famous band performing this genre of music.
Polish folk dance has a long and rich tradition and is associated with several historical or religious events of the country. In the modern times, the folk dances are usually performed by dance companies on special occasions like cultural and religious festivals or four tourism purposes. The national dances of the country are Oberek, Mazurek, Krakowiak, and Kjawiak. The dances evolved from a peasants’ style of dancing to ballroom style dancing by the addition of ballet flavors following the annexation of Eastern Europe by Napoleon.
3. Literature And Arts
Polish literature developed and evolved since the arrival of Christianity in Poland. The earliest literature produced in the country was in Latin. Wincenty Kadłubek, Gallus Anonymus, and Jan Długosz were some of the famous Middle Age Polish authors. The Renaissance period also witnessed the production of great literary works by the Polish authors and poets. Jan Kochanowski was a renowned Polish poet of the time. After the country lost its sovereignty in the 19th century, Romantic literature flourished in the country. A number of poets and authors produced works that focussed on patriotism and the revival of the country. During this time, three poets, entitled the “Three Bards” (Zygmunt Krasiński, Adam Mickiewicz, and Juliusz Słowacki) acted as the spiritual leaders of the nation. Outstanding Polish literature was produced in the 20th century and the Avant-Garde experimentation played an important role during this time. In 1924, the novel Chłopi won Władysław Reymont a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Polish art has been a blend of European trends with indigenous influence. The history and customs of the country are well reflected by the Jan Matejko inspired Historicist painting of Kraków school. Jozef Chełmoński was a famous Polish painter belonging to the realist school. Modern Polish art was associated with heavy experimentation and was born with the Młoda Polska movement. Currently, Polish art is enjoyed and recognized worldwide.
2. Religions And Festivals
Christianity is the dominant religion in Poland with about 92.2% of Poles being Roman Catholics. Catholicism plays a significant role in the lives of people living here and around 65% attend Church services regularly. Other religions practiced in the country include Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
Since Christianity is the religion of the majority in Poland, Christian festivals are celebrated with great pomp and glory in the country. Concerts are held and carols are sung throughout the country on New Year’s Day. The Drowning of Marzanna is a festival held to bid farewell to winter and welcome spring. An effigy of Marzanna is drowned in the river to signify the end of the ills of the winter season. Easter is also celebrated with great fun in the country. During Christmas in Poland, the Poles hold grand Christmas feasts at their homes and share the food with family members. The St. Stephan's Day is celebrated the next day. The Polish version of Santa, Mikolaj visits children on Christmas Eve or on December 6th to shower them with gifts. The St. Andrew's Day is a traditional holiday in the country and is celebrated on November 29. Several other festivals and holidays are also celebrated in Poland.
Speedway is extremely popular in Poland and the Polish Extraleague attracts the greatest number of spectators among all sports played in the country. The Polish also love playing volleyball and the country has a history of participation in several international competitions of this game. Formula One Racing was first introduced to Poland by driver Robert Kubica. Hiking, skiing, ski jumping, and mountain biking are popular activities enjoyed by both amateur and professional sportsperson visiting the mountains of Poland. The beaches and coastal waters of the country offer aquatic sports and beach activities like canoeing, kayaking, sports-fishing, etc. A variety of other sports like basketball, hockey, swimming, weightlifting, boxing, etc., are played in the country.