The name Marzanna comes from an old Slavic pagan goddess associated with death and winter. Although she lost that religious significance in Christian times, she became the center of a spring equinox celebration. In the Old Country, villagers would process out of town with a straw effigy and throw her in the nearest stream, sometimes after lighting her on fire.
The crowd that I joined in the tradition drove to the outskirts of Columbus, to Highbanks Metro Park. Rather than setting her ablaze and letting her drift downstream, we just dipped Marzanna in the Olentangy River, so as not to get her too wet, then threw her in a fireplace at a little clubhouse we rented.
The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking Polish beer, eating grilled sausages, and singing Polish folk tunes from a songbook of several hundred pages.
Although I lived in Slovakia for six years, and they have very similar traditions – which like most vary from region to region – I never got to take part in one of their “Morena” rituals. So thanks to the Polish American Club of Columbus for letting me experience this Slavic fest!
They’re doing it again this year on Saturday, March 23. See the current post on their website: http://www.poloniacolumbus.org/, and that of Ohio State's Polish Club, and if you're in the area, maybe you can join in. Wish I could be there!