VIVA THE KINGVIVA SEJM, NATION AND ALL OF ITS STATES!

VIVA THE KING, VIVA SEJM, NATION AND ALL OF ITS STATE

The Constitution of 3 May 1791 is undoubtedly one of the most important symbols of Polish independence. This Governance Act was not only a symbol, important law text or even a historical event – it was a breakthrough. In the spirit of understanding its importance, the first Sejm (the lower house of the Polish bicameral parliament) that gathered after regaining independence 1919 made the day of 3rd may a national holiday. It was restored as such in 1990.

Why the celebration of 3rd of May as the Constitution Day is so important? What was the role of Constitution in the XVIIIth century Poland?

Reign of the Saxons

The first half of the XVIIIth century was the time when Saxon kings from the House of Wettin ruled in Poland. It was also a time of chaos and tragic disorganisation of the state. Wealthy noble families cared more about their personal interest – many of them used to work for foreign forces in exchange for political and economic income.

Despite the political chaos, the culture of feasts and banquets was thriving. Among most popular alcohols were beer, wine and gorzałka (old polish name for vodka) – produced in Poland since the XVIth century. Gorzałka was popular not only among the commoners – we can estimate that around 20 litres of it per year was consumed by the court and the nobles. Also Women used to keep various flavoured vodkas in their households strictly for medical purposes. We have many descriptions of XVIIIth century fests in Poland – most of them describe various and complex rituals connected to toasting. There was even a famous phrase “Za króla Sasa jedz, pij i popuszczaj pasa” with can be translated as “ During the reign of a Saxon King, eat, drink and enjoy!” – it seems that the general social mood was not very encouraging towards any reforms.

Reign of Stanislaw August Poniatowski

The last king of Poland wanted a general reform of the country. He was an abstinent and he felt displeased towards irresponsible behaviours of the nobility. Interesting fact is that during his reign vodka started to be made out of potatoes – they have been brought to the country during the times of Jan III Sobieski but they slowly gained their popularity during the Saxon times.

Despite the fact that he was elected as a king thanks to the support of Russian Empress Catherine the Great, king Poniatowski had one main goal – he wanted to improve the general situation in Poland through reforms. Nowadays he is a very controversial figure – some scholars accuse him of political helplessness, but there is no denying that he tried to conduct general reforms. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was in crisis and in a deep need of such actions. The Great Sejm that took place in 1788-1792 was defined by a social reformative movement and the increased political activity of the nobility. Together with the prominent figures of Polish Age of Enlightenment, they deputies wanted to free Poland from the Russian influences and conduct general reform of the state. This reform was fully expressed in the act of Constitution adopted on the 3rd of May 1791.

Article by Przemysław Grochowski and Agnieszka Honkowicz tour guides in the Polish Vodka Museum.

LEARN THE HISTORY OF THE POLISH VODKA MUSEUM BUILDING!

LEARN THE HISTORY OF THE POLISH VODKA MUSEUM BUILDING!

Polish Vodka Museum is a place with a long history dating back to the end of the 19th century. It’s ineriors has been sucssessfully restored and rearranged. Are you curious about what the building used to be? There is a hanful of interesting and suprising facts about this plase. Visit us and discover them all!

“NA PIERWSZĄ NÓŻKĘ“THE BASICS OF POLISH TOASTS.

“NA PIERWSZĄ NÓŻKĘ“ - THE BASICS OF POLISH TOASTS.

For some, raising a toast can only be associated with a boring point at the beginning of the wedding or an oratorical show of the supervisor during a business event. One toast will be entertaining, another will move or inspire. An unskilfully made toast can also be boring or even embarrassing. Let’s not forget that toast can also be something as simple as the joyful shout “Cheers!” before another sip of your favourite drink. All toasts have one purpose – making the moment more special to celebrate someone, something or just to have fun.

What is a toast?

Undoubtedly raising a toast is a ritual inextricably linked to drinking alcohol. Toast itself is a kind of short speech and as such should be considered as… literature! Although it is a simple form, it cannot be denied diversity. We have already mentioned that toasts can be more or less formal. In addition to the short ones, we can also sometimes find a very extensive toast. The speech can even be replaced by a song. Although the art of toasting today may not be used on such a large scale, this tradition is permanently inscribed in our history.

The history of toast

Toast, as a ritual way of alcohol consumption, has been present in culture since ancient times. Almost all past civilizations, independently, learned the techniques of obtaining alcohol and included it in certain rituals. These rituals have evolved into the habits that we now call a feasting culture. It makes social relationships stronger and at the same time, the toasts themselves were always connected to the idea of honouring a given person in public.

In ancient Greece the tradition of symposium was developed. Symposium consisted of a feast/banquet where apart from the meal the main activity was a celebration of joined wine drinking. An important part of such celebration was a ritual of libation -the pouring of a small amount of wine while reciting a prayer in honour of various deities, mainly Dionysus or the mourned dead. In time those invocations progressed into long forms such as hymns praising gods, heroes or important guests.

The entire culture of making a toast was further developed in the medieval Europe. Many interesting myths are connected to this period. One of them explains that the tradition of tapping each other glasses during a toast comes from the belief that the noise of the glass was supposed to deter the evil spirit from the house hold. Other sources claims that this custom came from the fear of poison – strongly tapping at each other glasses was supposed to cause the liquor to mix making any attempt of poisoning difficult. Although both of those theories seems attractive, nowadays we must treat them rather as myths – first of all most of the glasses during the medieval times weren’t actually made out of glass – it’s hard to imagine the distinctive noise of a toast without this material. Secondly strong alcohols were commonly drunk from a single vessel that was passed among the guests. Also the possibility of spilling the content seems against the theory of tapping glasses – in the old times such practise would be treated as a waste of precious drink. So what is the real explanation of the tapping glasses tradition? Unfortunately we are unsure.

During the Times of old polish nobility making of a toast was often known also as “wiwat” or “zdrowie” ( which can be loosely translated as “viva” and “for your health”). It comes from the belief that alcohol was supposed to be good for the general health. Nowadays we have an accurate view of how alcohol affects our bodies but the term “Na zdrowie!” used during toasting remains in use. During the feasts organised by old polish nobles the toasts were getting longer and often composed as hymns or even songs. The increased popularity of vodka consumption increased also the popularity of the toast formulas. The idea of drinking a toast was treated as a show of praise and support towards different offices and institutions or people, and that’s why the entire hierarchy of toasts was crated: The most important was the first toast usually made for the kingdom of Poland, the second one was reserved for the king, than the next ones followed for the queen, the archbishop, notable guests and in the end the host. Every toast was ended with the name of the recipient and the call “ Niech żyje!” ( “May he/she live[long]!). If You refused to make a toast , your action was considered as very impolite and offensive towards the recipient. That’s where the old polish custom of “przynuka” comes from – it was the custom of forcing each other to drink by adding more liquor to the glasses of other guests.

Later in time, toast kept its extensive form, and began to play the role of moralizing sermons or parables about nationality topics. This type of custom was described in The Trilogy by Henryk Sienkiewicz (one of the most prominent Polish authors from the XIX century and a Nobel Prize laureate ) and in Master Thaddeus written by Adam Mickiewicz (regarded as a national poet in Poland).

Making a Toast nowadays?

The contemporary tradition of toasts in Poland gradually started to disappear, just like the convivial culture. Also, the ritual of drinking “under the command” was replaced by the bar culture. Making a toast is only used in an official situation, it is an important part of diplomatic protocol. However, there is no reason for less formal toasts not getting back their foregone popularity and we believe there is a hope to reactivate the polish custom of toast. We often admire the Georgian or Balkan culture in which the custom of raising “cheers” is still a living art. But while admiring them, let us not forget about our own wonderful history of feasting.

Finally, we would like to highlight that old-polish custom of “przynuka” should be replaced by responsible consumption. Although the tradition of Polish toast is connected with drinking alcohol and the best way then it’s to “cheers” with Polish Vodka, in the end the most important thing is to celebrate the special moment with our loved ones. Sometimes just a symbolic toast is enough to create unique memories.

Article by Mariusz Dampc tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.

ECOLOGICAL COLOURING OF EASTER EGGS AND MORE…

ECOLOGICAL COLOURING OF EASTER EGGS AND MORE…

The tradition of decorating Easter eggs can be dated back to antiquity, and in Poland in particular it is probably as old as Christianity. Back in the day, pigments used in the process were of course completely natural and some of them such as the decoction made form red beetroots or onions can be still useful.

Zygmunt Gloger in his work titled “ The Dictionary of Ancient Things” recalls different sources of pigment substances such as: bark of a wild apple-tree, mallow flower or safflower. He also mentions spices such as saffron, that was also used as a source of yellow pigment for cakes (read an article about alcohol in baking here) or flavoured vodkas called Nalewki.

A vodka producer from Wroclaw, in his book “ The Art of distilling various vodkas from Wroclaw and Gdansk” from 1828 also mentions saffron as the source of a yellow pigment. He also recalls other components used for obtaining colour during production. They may sound quite exotic: for example Brazilian tree (Caesalpinia brasiliensis) as a source of brown pigment, true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) used to obtain blue pigments or a mix of extracts form the sandalwood tree, litmus (from lichens), galangal and root of a violet – all used to create bright red colour. The creativity of our ancestors in the field of creating various natural pigments was truly impressive.

 

Article by Sebastian Gaik tour guide in the Polish Vodka Museum.

 

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT POLISH VODKA?

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT POLISH VODKA?

Where to get knowledge about Polich Vodka? Preferably from the Museum that was created in her honor! Visit the Polish Vodka Museum and learn the mysterious history of our national heritage.