In Krakow, our first days of spring have included a surprise return visit from the snow clouds. It also was paired with some not-so-welcomed Covid restriction returns. I won't get into those in full, but suffice it to say that the hopes I had for doing a little weekend getaway are, at the very least, suspended. Regardless, I will always welcome a snowy walk. Especially, if that walk turns into a scavenger hunt, or even better, a witch hunt!
I recently learned that March 21st is the day to welcome Polish spring by burning, and then drowning Marzanna, the witch of winter. School children will build dolls out of straw and cloth, decorated with twine and accessories to parade around. Then, all of the Marzannas (and male counterparts Marzonioks) are burned at the stake. The witches are then dunked into water, all while children sing ominously gleeful songs about the process.
It's an old pagan Slavic ritual, as a way to turn away from winter, plague, and death, and to welcome the spring. In Germany, there was a similar tradition of burning a snowman in the town square as everyone jumped abroad the "summertime train." These equinox rituals are so much fun for me, but maybe that's because we don't have a similar counterpart (that I know of) in America.
Sadly, my witch hunt was not a success. Nowhere along the river did I find any charred carcasses or trails of sopping rags. Some villages have a town-sponsored celebration, but I don't know of one in Krakow. Even if there typically is something, nothing would be going on this year (nor last year). Also, I get the impression that the celebration is mostly carried on by children, so maybe because today isn't a school day there weren't any school-sponsored massacres. Lastly, it's really cold today, so I'm sure only the most dedicated made their way out to the water today.
Alas, it's just another small loss thanks to the year+ pandemic, and in the process of researching this, I caught wind of another springtime activity, which I think is unlikely to happen this year– a city-wide pillow fight. Even though I don't expect anything like this, I'll be taking a stroll through Rynek on April 4th!