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A Wonderful Wianki In Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was a magnificent traditional Polish cultural event in an equally magnificent American setting here on the National Mall – dubbed ‘America’s Front Yard,’ on the evening of June 24, 2017. This Wianki – Festival of Wreaths – played out on the lower plaza of the majestic Lincoln Memorial, with its bleacher-utilized steps, and bordered by the western end of the Reflecting Pool.

PHOTO: Folk Dancing on the National Mall. The “Polka Wsciekla” (‘Crazy Polka’) is being enthusiastically performed by Baltimore’s Ojczyzna Folk Dancers in authentic costume germane to Poland’s Nowy Sacz region. The Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument are prominent in the background.

The Polish American Arts Association of Washington, D.C. sponsored and organized the extensive cultural affair under the direction of Chairpersons Marianna Eckel and Stasia Skrypczuk. The sizable Polish, American, and otherwise international audience was bolstered by the constant ebb and flow of hundreds of visitors to the must-see Lincoln Memorial in the background.

A wianki (wreaths) workshop was set up on a large tarp. It consisted of fresh cut flowers, vines, and ferns to be weaved into headdresses by the maidens, and other attendees. The maidens were also provided with traditional white flowing robes. The score of Polish and multi-ethnic maidens, wearing their wreaths, later processioned down to the waters of the Reflecting Pool and participated in merrymaking and a group dance before doffing their wreaths and simulating casting them adrift in the water. Polish folklore has it that the fateful candle-lit wreath – drifting along a lake, stream or river – will be discovered by the lucky man who will fall in love with the hopeful maiden and become her husband.

     Polish music interludes during the three-hours-long event was provided by the Brothers-in-Law Band. Two Baltimore folk dance groups – Ojczyzna (adult) and Krakowiaki (youth) – adroitly performed dances and sang songs from different regions of Poland, all to the utter delight of the audience. The folk dancers ended their performances by leading scores of the eager novice spectators in a very credible Grand Polonaise that pranced and twisted around the plaza … much to the magic and enjoyment of Wianki, as well as to the appreciation of the culture of Poland.

In photo: Julia Pryputniewicz & Klaudia Jarczak

 

 “Na Swiety Jan woda kwitnie”

‘On St. John’s night, the water blooms’

Jan Kochanowski, in the 16th century, wrote the following description of the Wianki traditions and beliefs: “In Poland the Eve of St. Johns is fraught with miracles and magic. Animals talk to each other with human voices. The earth shows the enchanted riches in its depths, glowing with fires. In wild ravines the barren fern blooms. Certain plants take on magical properties. Wreaths, to which are fixed lighted candles, are cast in the waters so that their courses may be followed. From the course and fate of the wreaths anguries of marriage are made. The special promise of St. John is youth, love and general fertility.”

     And so it was on this wonderful Wianki evening in Washington … as well as in knowing that equally joyful celebrations of Wianki were also taking place over the length and breadth of Poland during this time of the summer solstice.

Text & Photos
By Richard P. Poremski

Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau

June 30, 2017   

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