• September 21, 2008

On September 21, 2008, the Polish Cultural Foundation together with the Polish American Folk Dance Company observed the Polish Harvest Festival, DOZYNKI. The celebration took place in the Foundation's Grand Hall in Clark, New Jersey. For this occasion, the Hall was festooned with white canopies, and yellow balloon lamps. The event was attended by an estimated two hundred persons, significantly more than had been anticipated. Several additional table set-ups were required to accommodate all the guests.

The festivities were presented by the Polish American Folk Dance Company of Brooklyn, NY (PAFDC). Following a grand entry into the Hall by the entire Company, the guests were officially welcomed by the Chairpersons of the event, Mr. Edward Wojcik and Mrs. Elizabeth Kubicz, in both English and Polish. Mrs. Mary Bielski of the PAFDC offered the audience an explanation of the designs on the costumes worn by the participants, noting that costumes from each l local area had its own distinctive design. Featured were the costumes of the Lowicz area, which include a rose on the blouse. It was noted that these distinctive designs identified each wearer as being from a particular town or village. This enabled a young man at a DOZYNKI festival to know which village to go to, in order to court a young lady who had caught his eye.

While today's DOZYNKI Festival is seen as Christian observance of thanksgiving to God for a bountiful harvest, the feast actually has its origins in pagan times. Mrs. Bielski described how sacrifices would be made in pre-Christian times to pagan gods. Among these sacrifices would be the life of a young virgin. Today, a remnant of that custom survives in the practice of carrying a young girl upside-down, to the fields, to "plow" the ground with her bare fingernails. Among other traditions are the custom of offering the gift of bread to the GOSPODARZ, or owner of the estate. It is expected that the farm workers will receive something in return. Also, the RZODOWNIK and PRZODOWNICA are chosen, who are the best male and female workers of that year. A very prominent display of a WIENIEC, or wreath of wheat is also made. Finally, the revelers would toast the GOSPODARZ, the dance till dawn in celebration. Mrs. Bielski explained that this all-night celebration was the origin of the BIALY MAZUR, which revelers danced "DO BIALEGO RANA", (till dawn).

As the PAFDC's presentation proceeded, dancers presented bread and wine to the assembled guests, accompanied by shouts of ''VIVAT, VIVAT"("to life, to life"). The Company the performed several traditional Polish folk dances, including the KRAKOWIAK from the MALA POLSKA region, and the polka from WIELKOPOLSKA, in the area of Poznan. A rendition of 'SIWY KON' was also given, with audience participation. The Company then performed several MAZURKI, in the BIALY MAZUR tradition. The grand finale dance was a Polonaise, in which members of the audience were asked to participate. As an aside, Mrs. Bielski related that the Polonaise, based on a dance originally known as the CHODZONE , or "walk", received its current name from the King of France, who referred to it as "that Polish thing", or Polonaise in French.

After the conclusion of the Company' performance, Grace Before Meals was eloquently led by Mr. Wojcik. The participants and audience were then treated to a delicious buffet of pierogi, golabki, etc., provided by Mrs. Przybycien. Participants and audience alike returned home with memories of an experience both culturally enlightening and highly entertaining.

Written By Eugene O’Neill
Photos by Karolina Szczepanska
The Polish Cultural Foundation

The Polish Harvest Festival 2008

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Merit of Culture from Republic of Poland

The Polish American Folk Dance Company (PAFDC) proudly received the recognition of Merit of Culture from the Republic of Poland for promoting Polish folk culture in the United States.

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Repertoire and Costumes

PAFDC has a repertoire in excess of 25 folk dance suites from different regions of Poland and owns over 600 individual costumes. See current list of repertoire and some photos of our beautiful costumes.
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