Polish Culture Merges Past With Present

Roman Catholic Holiday Traditions Dominate the Scene

Krakow, main square with St. Mary's basilica
••• Maria Swärd / Getty Images

Polish culture has its roots in history, but it continues to evolve, incorporating old traditions with modern sensibilities. If you're interested in the culture of Poland, whether because you're traveling to Poland, getting in touch with your Polish roots or simply satisfying your curiosity, what you discover will surprise and delight you. These photos illustrate many aspects of Polish culture -- from its indigenous architecture to its folk art and a wide range of holiday customs. Use these photos as a launchpad for your own Polish culture studies and discover which aspect of Polish culture interests you most.

  • 01 of 09
    Polish Girl's Dress - Folk Dress from Poland
    ••• Folk dress from Poland. iStockphoto/matt_scherf

    Poland's folk costumes are colorfully decorated and represent different regions of Poland. Men's and women's folk costumes are most often seen during holidays and festivals when dancers entertain audiences with traditional performances.

  • 02 of 09
    Polish Easter Eggs
    ••• Poles elaborately decorate Easter eggs. iStockphoto/Oliaa

    Poland's population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, and that means that many Polish holidays -- from Easter to All Saints' Day and Christmas -- follow Catholic traditions. If you visit Poland during holiday periods, you get the chance to see up close and personal authentic Polish life and get a memorable cultural experience in the bargain. 

  • 03 of 09
    Christmas Tree in Warsaw, Poland
    ••• Warsaw, Poland, dressed for Christmas. iStockphoto/podgorsek

    Christmas celebrations in Poland occur on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but large cities in Poland take advantage of this special time of year to bedeck historic centers in lights, decorations and Christmas trees. Christmas markets add to the festive atmosphere.

  • 04 of 09
    Mikolaj, the Polish Santa Claus
    ••• Mikolaj, the Polish Santa Claus. CC BY-NC-ND antoni.katowice

    Poland's Santa Claus is most commonly known as Mikolaj or St. Nicholas. He brings gifts on Dec. 6th and sometimes on Dec. 24th, the usual date for his trip from the North Pole in the United States.

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  • 05 of 09
    All Saints' Day Poland
    ••• All Saints' Day in Poland. CC BY-NC-SA bflickr

    On this day, Poles reunite with family members to honor the deceased and place candles and flowers at grave sites.

  • 06 of 09
    Palm Sunday Easter
    ••• Palm Sunday in Poland. CC by Magic Madzik

    Easter in Poland is a special time of year, with religious observances and the celebration of the return of spring. City centers come alive with festivals and markets, and families uphold old customs by coloring eggs and attending church services.

  • 07 of 09
    Christmas in Poznan, Poland
    ••• Christmas in Poznan, Poland. iStockphoto/remik44992

    Poland's cities are lovely during the Christmas season. Sometimes dusted with snow, historic centers sparkle with Christmas lights. Christmas trees in market squares glow beautifully at night for this culturally important holiday.

  • 08 of 09
    Alter of the Black Madonna, Jasna Gora Monastery
    ••• Alter of the Black Madonna, Jasna Gora Monastery. Kerry Kubilius, licensed to About.com

    The Black Madonna, housed in a special chapel in Jasna Gora monastery, is Poland's most important religious icon. The Black Madonna is famous for her darkened skin and the two scars that are on her cheek. Every year, thousands of pilgrims flock to Jasna Gora to pray in the presence of this icon.

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  • 09 of 09

    The Drowning of Marzanna

    Marzanna Effigy in Krakow
    ••• Marzanna effigy in Krakow. CC BY-NC magama.krakow

    This pagan festival celebrates the arrival of spring with the burning and drowning of the effigy of winter, a happy moment for Poles.