Andrzejki – St Andrew’s Eve
The Polish feast of Andrzejki, or St Andrew’s Day Eve, takes place on the 29th of November, with celebrations having been traced as far back as 1557. Eating and drinking of course forms part of the day’s festivities – as the day falls right before Advent (or the ‘Nativity Fast’), people eat, drink and be as merry as they can, as many then choose to fast or give up a luxury until Christmas.
What’s perhaps even more interesting though, is that Andrzejki is a day where many old Polish traditions, customs and rituals – some quite unusual! – are celebrated. The Andrzejki traditions centre on fortune telling, originally adopted by young unmarried women who wanted to learn of their future husbands. Andrzejki customs are now celebrated by both men and women, who believe St Andrew will help them get a glimpse into their future.
The main ritual involves pouring hot wax from a candle through the hole in a key into cold water. However many other games are observed including:
Shoe race – everyone in the group takes off their shoes. Your next task is to go to the furthest wall from the door and start putting one shoe in front of the other, one at a time in the direction of the door. The owner of the first shoe that crosses the doorstep will be the next to marry.
Picking the name of your future husband or wife – take a sheet of paper and write as many names of the opposite gender as you can (the paper very often is shaped like a heart). Then turn it over and let a friend put a pin into the back of the paper. The name which is the closest to the pin is your future husband or wife’s name (in some Polish regions you put the pin in the paper yourself).
Apple peels – peeling an apple and throwing the long peel behind your back. The shape of the peel will give a hint of the future husband’s name – but if no letter can be made out of the mess, it means you are probably not going to be married any time soon.
Today, the fun and frivolity of Andrzejki is celebrated throughout Poland and by Poles all over the world, who continue to embrace the future-telling traditions and begin to prepare for the Christmas celebration.