‘Ugly winter, go away!’ message made by Polish people drowning Marzannas on Spring Equinox in UK

by Maciej Wojcik

A boy watches as a drowned Marzanna floats away

A tradition from Poland of drowning a special doll on the first day of spring was marked at a Leicestershire brook as Britain entered the third week of March.

In Poland, and other Slavic countries, the first day of spring is celebrated in traditional ways.

As winter in Poland sometimes is really cold with temperatures below -25°C, by the third week of March people are really fed up with that season.

They miss spring – fresh, green grass and the first flowers. It was the same thousands of years ago, when the Poles developed a ritual for driving out winter and called on spring to come.

The winter is symbolised by a puppet made of hay and old clothes, named Marzanna. Nowadays, the hay is often replaced by just old clothes.

On the first day of spring, Marzanna needs to be drowned in flowing water (a river, creek or brook), or, if there is ice on the surface, burned and then thrown into the ice.

Initially, the tradition had religious meaning, its origins being in the oldest layers of Slavic beliefs, linked to animism.

Marzanna was not actually a goddess, but a ‘spirit of Winter’.

Nowadays, it is more an element of the culture, although there are some modern paganism believers among Poles, similar to Druids in the UK.

In Poland, it is mainly children who enjoy celebrating Marzanna drowning. Being in another country, however, has not stopped people from celebrating that tradition, especially because children like it.

In Leicestershire, one of the places where Marzannas were drowned yesterday(SUN, MARCH20), which marked the Spring Equinox, was Grace Dieu Priory, near Thringstone, with its priory ruins, a wood and Grace Dieu Brook.

Ela Malogoska, a graduate from De Montfort University (DMU), said: ”I went for that kind of event this year. I have a friend who is a modern paganism believer and he asked me to come.

“I am not very traditional, for me it is rather fun for children. I know that some Polish people are still doing it, even in the UK.”

A police officer refused to comment on the matter officially under their name, but anonymously said: “If there is a religious excuse, I don’t think that anyone will be fined.”