Religious festivals – Corpus Christi

Unique by its nature, the religious festival in our area is the feast popularly known as Corpus Christi. The full name is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This feast is celebrated irregularly (in relation to the annual calendar), on the eleven days after Pentecost – always on a Thursday. In Poland, it was introduced in the 14th century. The celebrations of the feast begin with the so-called summa – the main Mass in a given church. It is followed by the most important part of the celebrations – the procession, which, depending on the diocese, takes on different dimensions – sometimes it is carried out only around the church, and sometimes through the streets of the whole town. The essence of this celebration is the taking of the Blessed Sacrament outside the church – to all the people – and the public manifestation of faith by all the faithful.

The procession is led by the children who have received their First Holy Communion that year, in their festive white clothes. At the front go the boys, who use bells to announce to everyone that the Blessed Sacrament has been brought out of the church. Next go the girls, who spread flower petals in front of the host. Next goes a priest carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance under a canopy. Behind him, the holy images, statues, feretrons, flags and banners of various parish groups are carried on special stands. At the end of the procession, all the faithful walk. Festive dress is obligatory. Young children are dressed in white, those on duty – firefighters, police officers, military personnel – wear gala uniforms, while some wear traditional costumes.

The procession is led to four field altars. These are prepared and decorated by people living nearby on the street in question. The residents of the houses where the procession is led often display holy images in their windows. The decoration of the altars is mainly made of green branches – birch, lilac, lime and flowers1. Upon arrival, the altar is incensed with incense burned in cogs. Scripture passages are read at each altar: St Matthew’s Gospel, then St Mark’s, St Luke’s and finally St John’s. After leaving a particular altar, people often tear off the branches decorating the altars, because they believe in their magical, protective properties. These are then kept in homes or staked into farm fields. At the end of the procession, a festive blessing is given with the Blessed Sacrament.

1A. Gaweł, Rok obrzędowy na Podlasiu, Białystok, 2013, s.204-207