Culture Creep Coming and Going

All Saint’s Day in Poland happened a few days ago. Normally every year at that time there are TV reports about the menace of the American holiday Halloween and experts say how it’s gaining a foothold in Poland (it’s not really).

People travel more for All Saint’s Day is the holiday than any other holiday in the year and during the day they clean graves (Polish cemeteries are homey, comfortable places and not scary at all) and leave candles (in little glass containers with metal lids) that burn for a couple of days.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania wszystkich świętych

Multiply this by a hundred (and it’s still prettier in person)

Walking around a cemetery at night when the foot traffic is a lot less is a beautiful sight (especially when it’s drizzly and the metal lids of the candles sizzle as raindrops fall on them.

This year I was meeting a friend to go to a nearby cemetery and while we’re on the way we hear weird amplified voices and were wondering what it could be, maybe police issuing traffic orders?

As we got closer we saw, it was a group of young Polish evangelical protestants doing their evangelical thing testifying about how great they feel now that they’ve left “religion” (ie Roman Catholicism) behind and found the truth in Jesus. It was pretty standard evangelical fare and I know they’ve been working in the city where I live for the last 15 years or so at least though they don’t have much to show for it. I’ve had a handful of students involved in them over the last five years or so but most Polish people aren’t actively religious (they’re mostly passive Catholics and only go active when there’s a political agenda to further).

My friend found them very weird and was surprised when I said it was all boilerplate rhetoric. I’ve seen what looked like similar presentations in Romania and Hungary (sort of guessing since I couldn’t understand much) but never here.

I went by them quickly not wanting to make eye contact.

“You might not understand what this is all about, you might not understand why we’re here” said the earnest young woman on the mic.

“We don’t understand!” yelled back one helpful guy from 20 or so meters away and everybody smirked.

Later while leaving the cemetery and the people selling flowers and candles I saw one seller had miniature plastic pumpkins with little electric lights inside.

That’s American culture, fundamentally missionary in nature and if it can’t slip in the front door, it will try to slip in the back or crawl in through the window….

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