Lexicon of Polish cultural connotation: A – St. Andrew’s Day2010/12/01 17:14:00 Written by EwaMaslowska
“ The St Andrew Day –
Young girls hope and pray…”
29/30 November in Poland is the day of mysterious parties with the candles and future telling games, called Andrzejki (St Andrew Day)– the same as in the very past, but nowadays treated as a fun.
There are hundreds of ideas of how to find out about the future, namely the marriage, lucky or unlucky love and prosperous or poor perspectives. The most popular practices are wax pouring and shoe competition.
The most spectacular is pouring liquid wax into water. The shape which formed as the wax solidified is then illuminated to throw its shadow on the wall. The shape of the shadow allows for unlimited interpretation, which is fun for all participants.
The shoe competition is reserved for the girls only. All of them took off their left shoes and put them in a line one after the other. Then this line of shoes “walk” to the door, the last moving to the front on by one, thus walking forward. The girl who’s shoe reach the door first would be the first to get married.
Isn’t it a contradiction St Andrew’s Day and telling the future?
What Saint Andrew has to do with all the magical practices well known by young girls in all regions in Poland and Central and West Europe like Germany, Slovakia, Czech, Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Hungary, Rumania, Lithuania and even in Greece. Why this particular day allows young girls to discover the name of their future husbands, their chance for marriage soon, and all possible matrimonial details.
The ancient roots of the tradition
The worldwide extend of the custom proves its ancient provenance. Its roots go much deeper then Christianity back to pagan times when the time of the changing of the seasons was looked upon as particularly powerful, presenting the chance of special contact between the real and the spiritual worlds. It is significant that during this period as autumn starts to move into winter. All Souls Day is celebrated. People believed in special contact with the “other world” at this particular time.
When autumn moves into winter…
Christianity appreciated the spiritual character of this period and St Andrew’s Day coincides with the start of Advent in the Catholic Church. Advent, lasting until Christmas, is the time of reflection, and prayer to develop spiritual contact with God.
St Andrew’s Eve was traditionally the last day when dancing parties were permitted, and so it became the ideal time for telling the future. Naturally, St Andrew became a patron of young girls as a confidant of their hopes and prayer for getting married. The tradition of Andrzejki fortune telling was noted in the 16th century and is still known and practised in all regions in Poland., although nowadays the ceremony has lost a lot of it’s a magical and serious character and has been transformed into fun and games during St Andrew parties arranged by young people.
Ways of forecasting marriage
There were several ways of forecasting marriage, depending on the region, the invention of the participants – and the faith in its power. The most popular methods were those based on interpretation of the magical signs, which could predict husband’s name, age, appearance, profession, the direction he is supposed to come from, the power of his love, and fortunate or unhappy marriage, and so on.
One of the way of discovering the future husband was to interpret the girl’s dream from the night preceding the St Andrew’s Day. After the intensive praying to St Andrew, they expected to be shown their future husband during the night dream. The man they could see during the dream was the one they would be soon merry.
Wax into water
The favourite way of future telling was for a group of girls to pour liquid wax into water. The shape of the solidified wax would tell what the future husband would look like, what would be his profession, and so on…
Who is the first to get married?
During the girl’s St Andrew’s Eve gathering, they wanted to know for whom the church bells would ring first. The answer was the result of the shoe competition. The owner of the shoe which reached the door first would be the lucky one – the first to leave the house, i.e. to get married.
From which direction will he arrive?
To know from which direction the boy would arrive, the girls would leave the house for a while to listen to dogs barking. From the direction the dog was barking, the boyfriend was expected to arrive.
What is his name?
Before getting to bed, the girls would put pieces of papers with the men’s name on under their pillow. In the morning, the first piece taken out of the pillow was the name of the future husband. There were hundreds of ideas of how to find out about the marriage. Many of these disappeared or had only a local character.
St Catherine׳s Day for bachelor׳s – St Andrew’s for girls
In the past, the only participants of the St Andrew’s Eve could be young girls, usually of a similar age. Married woman and men were not accepted. There was another day for bachelors, 24 November, the night preceding St Catherine’s Day, one week before St Andrews Day on 29 November.
Although the tradition is not as strong as in the past, and many practices are completely forgotten, it has to preserve something of its spiritual character if at least a few of those practices are still celebrated (such as pouring wax, shoe competition). Nowadays young people celebrate the traditional meeting together on St Andrew’s Eve. The remains of the belief of a magical power of that night lend a special mysterious character for the parties, with the candles and future telling practices.
Today the traditions provide an excellent reason for entertaining social gatherings. Try to avoid planning to business do on that day, as you will be risking that your potential guests will rather be attending a private party organized by their colleague Andrzej.