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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Carnival in Poland - From the ball to the table

Carnival, this special time before Lent, is celebrated in Poland with extraordinary pomp and joy. Starting from Fat Thursday, when Polish confectionery shops are under siege and donuts become a national delicacy, through masquerades, balls and dances, until the culmination on Shrove Tuesday, carnival in Poland is a unique time that everyone should experience.


In Poland, carnival is not just an excuse to have fun. It is also a time when local traditions are cultivated, often dating back many generations. It is celebrated in different ways in different regions of the country, from grand balls in big cities to intimate family gatherings in small towns. Each of these ways of celebrating has something unique, something that unites communities and allows you to forget about everyday life for a moment.


In this article, we will take a closer look at how Poles celebrate Carnival, from the most famous traditions to lesser-known but equally fascinating customs. We will move from the ball to the table, exploring the variety of carnival celebrations that delight and inspire everyone to have fun together every year.



Carnival masks in Gdańsk

Carnival traditions and customs


Carnival in Poland is a celebration like no other, bursting with energy, creativity and community spirit. From the moment you arrive here, you will be surrounded by a joyful atmosphere and the streets will be filled with music, dancing and laughter. Are you ready to forget about your worries for a moment and immerse yourself in this lively fun? Carnival is the perfect time to let your hair down and have a little fun.


This is a special time when we can cultivate traditions while unleashing creativity. Folklore elements combine with modern ones to create unforgettable experiences.


Everywhere you look, you will discover colorful costumes, elaborate masks and floats that showcase the best of Polish culture.


As you stroll through the streets, you have the unique opportunity to sample a variety of culinary delights, from hearty stews to sweet pastries, each bursting with authentic flavor. This is a reflection of the warm and hospitable nature of Poles, who are always willing to share their traditions.


But carnival is not only about food and costumes. It is also a time to celebrate community and meet friends and family. Whether you're dancing in the streets or cheering on the parade, you'll feel like you're part of something special. This sense of belonging and joy is hard to find elsewhere.


So why not join the fun and experience it all for yourself? Whether it's your first carnival or you're an experienced attendee, there's something for everyone in this vibrant and colorful celebration. Don't miss your chance to be part of this amazing event and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Carnival balls are elegant events with live music, elegant costumes and masks, and take place in many places, from schools to luxurious ballrooms. Traditionally, carnival balls are an opportunity to present oneself in creative, often handmade costumes that refer to various themes - from fairy tale characters to historical figures.


The custom of the end of carnival, or Shrove Tuesday, heralds the end of fun and preparation for Lent. This is the time when the last grand parties are organized, often until dawn, before the time of reflection and mortification comes. Shrovetide is also an opportunity to eat the last "sinful" dishes before fasting, which in Poland is often associated with traditional sweets and meat dishes.


Masks and disguises play a central role in Polish carnival celebrations. Inspired by both local folklore and global trends, Poles dress up as various characters, from ghosts and monsters to famous personalities and heroes of popular culture. These colorful and often creative costumes not only provide anonymity, but are also a way to express yourself and your creativity.


Carnival games are not only about balls. Many Polish towns and communities organize parades, street festivals and costume contests where residents and visitors can celebrate together. These events are often an opportunity to showcase local musical, dance and theater talents, as well as to taste regional dishes.


Carnival celebration in Poland, a time of debauchery


When we talk about Polish carnival, the first thing that comes to mind is an extraordinary mixture of traditions that have been living in the hearts and actions of people for generations. Poland, with its rich history and cultural heritage, has a lot to offer when it comes to unique ways to celebrate this joyful time.


In Poland you can experience carnival in several different ways, which shows the richness and diversity of our traditions. A tourist spending this time in a big city like Gdańsk will mainly observe the modern face of carnival. Crowds of mostly young people spending this joyful time in music clubs, discos and pubs is an image that can dominate in such places.


However, by going just a few kilometers outside the city, you will experience a real explosion of colors and immerse yourself in folk customs unique to each corner of Poland you happen to be in. It is here, beyond the hustle and bustle of the big city, that carnival reveals its traditional face, where each community proudly cultivates its own customs.


Carnival in Poland is a time when everyone can afford a moment of madness and forget about everyday worries. Imagine being part of this joyful atmosphere where the streets are filled with music, dancing and laughter.


This is an opportunity to literally let your hair down and join in the fun. Dance, sing, have fun - carnival is a time when we put all worries aside.


Celebrating carnival in Poland is about cultivating tradition, but also about unleashing creativity. The combination of folkloric and modern elements creates a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether through colorful costumes, elaborate masks, or floats showcasing Polish culture, every aspect of Carnival testifies to the richness and diversity of our traditions.


But above all, carnival is a time to celebrate togetherness. Meetings with friends, family or new people who share your love of music, dance and joy.


Whether you take part in street games, cheer on the parade, or just enjoy the atmosphere, this feeling of belonging and shared joy is what makes Polish carnival so special.


Carnival parade in Gdańsk

How do we celebrate carnival in Polish cities?


Carnival in Poland is not only a time of tradition and local customs, but also of great events that attract crowds of both residents and tourists from all over the world. From north to south, east to west, every major city has something unique to offer during this joyous time. Here is an overview of the most popular carnival events that will make your celebration unforgettable.


Every year, the capital of Poland becomes the arena for one of the most elegant carnival events - the Carnival Ball. In the historic halls of palaces and hotels, guests can feel like they are in another era, dancing to the rhythm of a waltz or tango.


Sopot, known for its beautiful beaches and unique pier, turns into a mecca for lovers of classical music and operetta in winter. The Sopot Operetta Festival is a unique opportunity to experience world-class performers live in the magical atmosphere of carnival.


Krakow, the city of kings and legends, becomes the cultural center of Poland during carnival. Krakow Carnival of Culture is a series of events that combines concerts, exhibitions, workshops and street parades. This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the city's rich history while celebrating the joy and creativity of modern celebrations.


Zakopane, located at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, comes alive every year at this time thanks to the Highlander Carnival. This is an event that combines highland folklore with modern elements of fun. Street parades, concerts and traditional dances are just some of the attractions that await visitors.


As I mentioned earlier, Gdańsk presents a rather modern face of carnival, with clubs and pubs full of life. However, the city is also the host of numerous cultural carnival events that combine tradition with modernity, offering something for everyone.


Shrovetide, or Polish "herring" - a grand farewell to carnival



The end of carnival in Poland, known as Shrove Tuesday or Śledź, is a special time, full of joy and loud farewells to the period of fun before the upcoming Lent. But where did the name "leisure" come from and what does this day mean to Poles?


Are you wondering what a herring is and why the last day of carnival was named after this fish?


This tradition dates back to the times when, on the last day of carnival, the tables were full of food and drinks. It is generally accepted that the best appetizer for vodka, which is a regular element of Shrove Tuesday celebrations, is herring. The presence of this dish heralded good fun and at the same time symbolized the arrival of fasting.


Herring and leftovers - the same or something different?


The names "leisure" and "shrove Tuesday" are used interchangeably and mean the same day - the last day before the beginning of Lent. It is then that, according to tradition, large parties are organized to celebrate the last moments of carefreeness and prepare for a period of reflection.


One of the most interesting and colorful traditions related to herring is walking with a goat. The ritual, which comes from ancient pagan times, has survived mainly in Kujawy and is a symbol of saying goodbye to winter and welcoming spring.


A procession of costumed people, including characters such as a goat, devil, siora (a man dressed as a woman), a young couple, as well as a chimney sweep, a bear, a fireman, a policeman, a soldier, death, a stork, a Jew and an orchestra, wanders the streets of towns and villages , entertaining the inhabitants and collecting gifts from them.


This procession, full of music and dance, symbolizes not only joy and fun, but also reminds us of the approaching time of renewal. A boy playing the role of a goat, dressed in a sheepskin coat with a wooden goat head and horns, jumps and dances, adding energy and vitality to the entire procession.


Herring is a moveable feast, it always falls on Tuesday, just before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This is a unique opportunity to forget about everyday worries for one night and completely devote yourself to the joy that is so characteristic of Polish carnival.


Samba school and carnival in Rio

Carnival in Rio: Grand parade, sambadromes and the magic of Brazilian fun


When talking about carnival, you cannot miss the most recognizable carnival event in the world - the carnival in Rio de Janeiro. It is here, at the famous sambadromes, that a spectacular parade takes place, attracting millions of spectators from all over the world every year.


It is a holiday that not only celebrates Brazilian culture, but is also an unforgettable experience for everyone who has the opportunity to observe it.


Interesting facts about the carnival in Rio:


  • Carnival in Rio has its roots in Portuguese and African traditions. The first official celebration took place in 1723, and since then the holiday has evolved to become a global phenomenon.

  • The main place for carnival celebrations are sambadromes - specially designed spaces where samba schools present their skills in parades. The most famous sambadromo, Sambódromo Marquês de Sapucaí, has a capacity of 90,000 spectators.

  • The samba schools parade competition is the heart of the carnival. Each school is asked to present a grand spectacle that tells a story through dance, music and costumes. Preparations for the carnival last all year long, and the choice of the parade theme is a closely guarded secret.

  • The costumes worn during the parade are the result of months of work and are true works of art. They are characterized by rich decorations and colors and often weigh several dozen kilograms.

  • Samba, which is the soul of carnival, is present everywhere during the celebrations. Its rhythms, derived from African roots, are an inseparable element of this spectacular event.

  • Carnival in Rio is not only fun, but also an important cultural event that aims to promote Brazilian national identity. It enables social integration and is an opportunity to present the cultural diversity of Brazil.


Carnival in Rio is an event that amazes the world every year with its scale, colors and energy. It is not only a celebration of samba, but also a manifestation of joy, creativity and community spirit that unites people regardless of their origin.

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