Traditionally an August or September event
Sometimes celebrated in the U.S. During October - Polish Heritage Month
The reward for hard labor is getting your just desserts. In rural Poland from way back when peasants toiled
in the fields before the advent of powered farm implements, bringing in the crops ended with the harvest
celebration we call Dożynki. In the mechanized world of today it is still observed in Poland and Polonia.
The nobility and larger landowners — who owned large tracts of land that required hired farm labor from all
around the countryside rewarded their people for their hard work at the popular and colorful Dożynki celebration
at the conclusion of the growing season.
Historically, the symbol of Dożynki is the Wieniec, [harvest wreath] which was presented to the landowner
by those working the fields. Pictured below is the traditional shape and form of this wreath which resembles
a dome-shaped crown. But, other designs can be seen in the left margin of this page.
Often this large wreath was made of a mixture of the most important grains - wheat and rye. Adorning the wreath
are flowers and ribbons. Sometimes hazelnuts and the fruit of the mountain ash tree where added. The traditional
harvest fell near the date of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Therefore, it is common practice
to have it blessed at the local church.
The typical Dożynki Day celebration starts with Mass, followed by a harvest procession to the Manor House.
Traditional costumes of the region are worn by most participants. In the old days the best girl harvester
(in Polish called "przodownica") wears a smaller version of the harvest wreath as a head piece. Upon arrive
at the lord's estate it is presented to the nobleman. Additionally it is common practice to offer the lord
and lady on who's property the event takes place a freshly baked bobka or other loaf form of bread. Then the
squire pours a measure of vodka for himself and the eldest male peasant to toast the entire congregation.
The pastor of the local church blesses the food to be consumed. Although the squires family and staff participate
in the feast - the food is a typical menu of peasant style dishes rather than the more elaborate culinary fair
customarily served in the manor house.
More details on Dożynki including music score and lyrics to the traditional harvest song can be seen by
Dożynki photos from Yorba Linda, California's extensive, well organized event can be viewed by
Robert Strybel, a stringer for many Polonian periodicals, laments: "This tradition is practiced to this
day in many quarters of our American Polonia, but all too often it is dożynki in name alone." He offers
a few suggestions on how to make sure your Polish harvest celebration does not end up as just another
run-of-the-mill parish picnic or polka fest.
[Suggestions for a better Dozynki]
Dożynki gminy Zielonki
Coming at the heels of the traditional Dożynki is the Feast of Greenery (Matki Boskiej Zielnej)
As summer draws to an end, the Polish Feast of Greenery takes place on September 8th. The farm people bring to church great bouquets of herbs, vegetables,
and corn, interwoven with a few flowers from the fields and gardens, which are blessed by the priest. These bouquets are carried home and kept until the
name day of the following year. When there is sickness in the household, the herbs are brewed and used for medicinal purposes, not only for the people,
but for the livestock as well. (Editor's note: This exact verbiage concerning Feast of Greenery was found on at
least three separate websites so proper attribution is impossible)