Warsaw Carnival

Warsaw Carnival
Like many other European countries, Poland celebrates Carnival, a festive season that precedes the liturgical season of Lent. The Carnival season in Poland begins after New Year’s Day, but the Warsaw Carnival officially opens on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.

Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek) is the first day of Carnival festivities in Poland. On this day, people eat pączki, traditional pastries similar to doughnuts. Pączki are deep-fried pieces of dough filled with sweet filling and covered with icing or powdered sugar. Poles believe that pączki bring good luck and those who don’t eat them on Fat Thursday won’t have any luck in the year to come.

The Polish Carnival culminates on Shrove Tuesday that is known as Ostatki or Zapusty in Poland. The word “ostatky” can be literally translated into English as “leftovers”, meaning that this day is the last opportunity to eat whatever fast inappropriate foods are still left in the house. It is the last day of partying before Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, herring and fish dishes are traditionally served.

Unlike many other cities throughout Europe, Warsaw doesn’t have an official carnival parade. Instead, there are costumed parties, fairs and other events held in many different venues around the city. Decades ago, the traditional way to celebrate Carnival was the kulig, a horse-drawn sleigh ride organized by the Polish nobility (szlachta). In modern times, Carnival is increasingly seen as an excuse to party for a week. It is becoming more commercialized just like other holidays such as Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

In the past, the drowning of Marzanna was the highlight of the Carnival in Poland. Marzanna is a Slavic goddess associated with the death of winter and rebirth of spring. The effigy of Marzanna was set on fire or torn into pieces and then thrown into water. The tradition still exists, but the ritual takes place on March 21 (the vernal equinox) rather than during the Carnival.

Warsaw Carnival

Photo: Grzegorz Piaskowski




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