Resilience and remembrance are at the heart of Polish tradition, as reflected in the editor's top five choices:
1. Hejnal Mariacki (The Krakow Signal)
"Since the Middle Ages every hour has been marked by the call of a trumpet atop a spire in the Church of St. Mary (Mariacki). This somber melody is familiar not just to those within earshot of Krakow's historic Market Square, but to every Pole thanks to Polish national radio, which broadcasts it live each day at noon. The tradition has been traced back more than 700 years, when it was used to signal the opening and closing of the city gates and to alert the citizens of Krakow of an impending attack. The melody stops abruptly before its last notes, commemorating a trumpeter who was shot with an arrow through the throat as he played."
2. Swiecenie Pokarmow (The Blessing of the Easter Feast)
"In Poland, Easter is as elaborate and meaningful as Christmas. For the blessing of the Easter feast, Poles bring baskets laden with food to special church services. Each item has a symbolic meaning: lamb to represent Christ, salt for purification, horseradish for the sacrifice, and eggs to symbolize life and the resurrection. Painting Easter eggs in either solid colors (pisanki) or intricate patterns (kraszanki) is also an important part of the tradition."
3. Lany Poniedzialek (Easter Wet Monday)
"The tradition of sprinkling water to symbolize baptism and renewal began as an ancient folk ritual in Polish villages. Traditionally, young men threw water at unmarried women, but today many Poles on the street must beware of youths wielding buckets of water and dousing everyone in sight."
4. Christmas Eve Oplatek
"In most Polish homes Christmas Eve supper begins with sharing oplatek, a thin wafer divided among family and friends. Oplatek bears resemblance to the communion wafers used in a Catholic mass but represents a spiritual fellowship that transcends religion. The unleavened bread, sometimes adorned with images of the season, symbolizes wishes of peace and goodwill and is shared with thoughts of those unable to be home for the holiday as well as departed loved ones."
5. Andrzejki (St. Andrew's Eve)
"This celebration marks the beginning of Advent. On November 29, Poles gather for a night of merriment and fortune telling. We dance, play games, and get a glimpse of the future. Unmarried girls take turns pouring melted wax into a bucket of water, searching for clues to their matrimonial prospects in the hardened cloud-like shapes. The timeless notions of romance and true love keep this tradition alive, and many young Poles celebrate the holiday in modern dance clubs."
Interview by Bronwyn Barnes