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Valentine's Day in Poland - Walentynki

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Polish Gingerbread at Krakow Folk Art Festival

Polish Gingerbread at Krakow Folk Art Festival

© Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

Valentine's Day or Walentynki (vah-len-TIN-kee) has been observed in Poland since the collapse of Communism and the opening of Poland's borders. Poles were quick to adopt Valentine's Day and nowadays it's as popular in Poland as anywhere else.

Greeting cards and heart-themed gifts abound at gift shops, and hotels, resorts and restaurants offer special packages for romantic getaways. Many Poles make a romantic pilgrimage of sorts to Chełmno, a small town about 30 miles northwest of Lódz along the Ner River, a tributary of the Warta River in today’s west-central Poland. It is here that the relics of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, have been preserved for several hundred years in the local parish church.

Chełmno Is the Lover's City

Dubbed "the lover’s city" or miasto zakochanych (mee-AHSS-toh zah-koh-HAH-nik), couples visit Chełmno to pray to the saint for a happy marriage. Gifts are exchanged between lovers –- cards, flowers, perfume, chocolates, jewelry, lingerie, and heart-shaped cookies known as ciastka w kształcie serca (CHASST-kah vef ksh-TAHW-cheh SERR-tseh) for the women, and electronic gadgets, DVDs and colognes for the men. The main square becomes a virtual fairyland when a huge electronic heart is lit to glow in the night. The festivities end with a glorious fireworks display.

Women's Day

While Valentine's Day is celebrated more privately between lovers in Poland, Women's Day or Dzień Kobiet (JEEN KOH-byet) is celebrated nationally on March 8. Women’s Day was created in 1948 by the Communist government, in part, to replace the Roman Catholic feast day of Blessed Wincenty Kadłubek, a 12th-century monk, but also to glorify the ideals of women as hard-working contributors to the economy -- sort of a women's equality day.

Although initially this holiday was enforced by the government, it became accepted and part of Polish culture, and is still celebrated as a national holiday for all women, regardless of age. They receive special attention, usually flowers, sweets and small gifts, not only privately, but at work and schools. The Western trend of giving greeting cards is creeping into this holiday as well.

Guarantee a spot in your lover’s heart with this Easy Chocolate Mousse Recipe that can be prepared in 15 minutes but takes several hours to set up in the refrigerator. It is niebo w gębie (NYEH-bohff GAM-byeh) or "heaven in your mouth."

Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji Walentynek (fsht-KYEH-goh nih-lep-SHEH-goz oh-KAH-zee vah-len-TIH-nek) or Happy Valentine's Day!
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