Celebrating Women as Magical

young girl with beautiful floral wreath on her head

The Wianki Festival - Ciechanowiec, Poland

Click here to listen to Paola talk about this festival

This is an excerpt from the book Celebrating Women.

There is a full moon. There are bonfires on shore at both ends of the lake. Thousands of blackbirds circle the water, then double back, reversing themselves high in the dark sky, and circle again.

Finally, as a bugler plays a song called “Silence,” the kayaks leave the dock. The girls hold the wianki (flower garlands) on their laps and extend their arms to each side of the kayaks, holding flares that shower sparks into the water. When the flares are exhausted, each girl carefully leans toward the lake and places her wianki on the water. The beautiful flower wreathes float, their candles shimmering, making mirror reflections on the dark surface. It’s as if we are watching poetry.

Then the fireworks crash above us, pouring color down: red, green, blue, white, gold; plumes, sparklers, flowers, stars; light exploding, expanding, each display morebreathtaking than the one before and after the most spectacular splash of all, silence.


Over sundaes the next day, I say, “How was it? Tell me everything!” Aneta, Alicja, and Paulina dip into the ice cream and admit, “Bugs. There were a lot of bugs.” “It was freezing in those short dresses thanks to the dew.” But they agree the festival was great overall and (with the exception of the bug-hater), everyone plans to participate again next year.

I say, “As the guard boat followed you to shore, I noticed that almost all the kayaks were being paddled by girls! How did you take command from those boys who were supposed to be escorting you?” Alicja laughs, “We paddle those boats all over the lake all the time.”  Aneta shrugs, “I just said, give me that paddle or I’ll give you a punch.”

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