DOZYNKI – Harvest Festivity in Poland

This is the biggest annual farmers’ holiday celebrated as a crowning achievement of their labor and held after all important field work has ended and crops, especially grain crops, have been gathered.

It was celebrated in Poland probably as early as 16th century. In Polish the fest is called “Dożynki.” Polish land proprietors have organized harvest festivals for their laborers. It was connected with dancing, eating and was king of being a form of a prize for good performance of their harvest job. The harvest was a reward for farmers’ effort. Human existence depended to great extent on the quantity and quality of the crops gathered.

There were also old, archaic and pagan elements present in harvest celebration which are nowadays explained as traces of ancient rituals and sacrifices made for fertility deities. Among the rituals there were practices and habits e.g. connected with the last handful of uncut grain. It was left on the filed for some time after the harvest to retain continuity of grain vegetation and fertility. It was reaped in a very solemn way by the best harvester and then passed over to the most efficient of woman harvesters. Harvest celebration began with weaving of a wreath of the grain left on the field, bunches of rowan berries, nuts, flowers and ribbons. Harvest wreaths were usually of a shape of a crown or a circle. In the past farmers also put life (or artificial) chickens, ducklings or goslings into their wreaths to provide for future abundant crops and healthy offspring. The wreath was carried by the best woman reaper with the help of other laborers. They led the procession of solemnly dressed harvesters carrying cleaned and decorated with flowers scythes and sickles on their shoulders. Then the wreath was taken into the church to be blessed and the procession set for the mansion house of the estate or the household of the field’s proprietor – the host of harvest festival. Harvesters sang about hardship of their work, about crops and concern for future harvests as well as about wishes for good crops and hope for fun and treat they deserved. The harvest wreath was kept in a barn until the next sowing.

As we can see, Polish harvest festival habits are several centuries old and little has changed so far. It is still a festival of farmers work and at the same time it has also become a religious festival and thanksgiving to God and Blessed Virgin Mary for successful harvest and crops gathered. After 1980 parish harvest festivals tradition was restored. Colorful processions with wreaths being placed in churches along with other crops of the soil are still organized. Farmers pilgrimages to the places of worship have become new tradition. The most popular is the pilgrimage to Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, the place of Holy Mary cult. It is the place of the most celebrated and the biggest Polish harvest festival and pilgrimage. Plenty of people and delegations of farmers from all over Poland participate in the celebration. Everybody is dressed in traditional costume, carrying beautiful wreaths and loafs of bread baked of the present harvest flour. Apart from its religious aspect it is also a time for joy, for fun, dancing and singing, for eating and drinking. It still creates an important part of Polish folklore, bringing he past to the present and consolidating the old with the new and thriving with atmosphere of optimism and joy.