So after spending some time with my cousin in Kraków, I made the 2.5 hour train ride to Częstochowa to spend All Saints’ Day with my family. This national holiday, celebrated on November 1st, is a time when people travel from all over Poland to visit the graves of their loved ones and to leave flowers and candles.

My grandparents' grave. My grandpa died on New Year's Day this year, my grandma died 4 years ago-- a month before I went off to college.

My family and I also drove about an hour to Działoszyn, where my (maternal) great-grandparents are buried. It was my first time visiting their graves.

The candles that people place on the graves, znicze in Polish, are specially designed for this purpose and burn for long periods of time. Stores are stocked with them weeks ahead of the holiday!

And at night, cemeteries seem to glow from all the candlelight…

Wszystkich Świętych is a rather solemn holiday. My family said there were less people this year, but it’s probably because it was REALLY cold. My uncle and I also went to Jasna Góra to visit the crypts– open to the public for only one week each year, starting on All Saints’ Day.

Here’s the entrance to the crypts under the Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa. They date back to the 15th century — priests of the Pauline order of Jasna Góra were buried here up until the 1960s.

The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary is straight ahead on the left. The entrance to the crypt, on the right, usually sealed during the year, is open for one week, starting on All Saints' Day- November 1st.

There’s also a tiny chapel down in the crypts…

I have never been to Jasna Góra when it was this empty. It’s usually FULL of people, especially the Chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa. In fact, I have never gotten so close to the miraculous icon as I did that night. And I got to walk around leisurely and take pictures.

This is a new robe that they've put on the icon-- it's made of amber.