After Polish Catholics lined the country’s 2,000-mile border to pray the “Rosary to the Borders,” Poland made another headline last week: Poland’s Sejm (lower house of Poland’s parliament) voted last week to phase out shopping on Sundays by 2020. The idea behind the bill is to allow Poles to spend more time with their families and less time shopping on Sundays. How will the phasing work? “The lower house, dominated by the ruling party, voted 254 to 156 with 23 abstentions to limit Sunday shopping to the first and last Sunday of the month from March 1 until the end of 2018; only on the last Sunday in the month in 2019; and to ban it totally starting in 2020. There will, however, be some exceptions that will allow Sunday shopping before major holidays like Christmas and Easter, and on the last Sunday in January, April, June, and August. Also, online shops and bakeries are to be exempted from the ban,” according to the Associated Press. This is the second time in the last two months that Poland has asserted its Christian roots and battled the European Union against measures which Poles believe will hurt its Christian identity.

Poland’s proposed ban on shopping reminded me of the 1980s and early ’90s in Italy, Rome to be exact. (Since then much has changed in Italy, as in other European countries, and progressively shops are open and shopping is available on Sundays.) Coming from Albania, which then was still suffering under a Communist dictatorship, finding shops closed in Rome and life concentrated on rest and reverence, was a pleasant surprise. In Albania, as in other socialist East-bloc countries, where religion (especially the Catholic Church) was persecuted, Sundays were volunteer-unpaid-work days. There was hardly any possibility for anybody to observe Sabbath. Sundays were days of neighborhood and city cleaning by its citizens: a collective volunteer labor of giving back to the society and the Party.

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