The aim of the paper is to show the Polish story of the COVID-19 pandemic as seen through a humorous looking glass. Different stages of coronavirus presence in the media and social discourse have been accompanied by the appearance and development of jokes and memes, which illustrate the rapidly changing pandemic situation. The database consists of over three hundred memes, movies, and comments collected between February and May 2020, during the pandemic humour peak, and come mainly from private WhatsApp and Facebook accounts of the researchers. The humorous material is related to introduced restrictions, changing laws, parliamentary elections, news from other affected countries as well as seasons and festive times - especially Easter - occurring in the same period of time. The universal themes present in the humorous material travelling around the world are complemented by the strictly culturally immersed topics, reflecting the specific social and political situation in Poland. The analysis undertaken in the article focuses on various kinds of mechanisms which involve intertextuality (allusions) as well as complexity of references that function as sources of humour, with special attention being paid to cultural references, for example, films, paintings, references to political life, including those of the life under socialism as well as universal themes, such as animal memes. © 2021 Eesti Keele InstituutAƒÂ‚A‚Â. All rights reserved.
The article gives an overview of the folk culture mechanisms that helped to cope with the pandemic situation in Belorussia during the first wave of COVID-19 (until midsummer 2020). The article is based on the qualitative analysis of interview texts related to the pandemic as well as the content of internet users' visual reactions (memes, poems, proverbs). In folk culture the mechanisms helping to overcome the crisis situation often have a ritual-magical nature. When describing the influence of the pandemic on some practices, the authors conclude that their performing in the crisis situation was especially important for the community. One of the ancient rituals activated for preventing the epidemic was the creation of a magic circle around the village by conducting a procession around the village with a ritual towel ('rushnik-abydzionnik'), which had to be made within one day. On March 28, this one-day-ritual was performed in Minsk with the greatest possible adherence to tradition. The initiators and participants of the practice were mainly representatives of the Students Ethnographic Society. Not all women present knew how to spin or weave, but some of the simplest operations were mastered. The towel was carried around Minsk and brought to a stone on the site of a pagan temple in the centre of Minsk at the sunset. The towel was tied around the stone, and the latter was also covered with threads spun on the same day. The ritual relieved the tension of the participants and fostered awareness of their solidarity, strengthening collective networks, and the feeling of empathy and unity. COVID-19 also affected the living traditions in Belarus. Some traditional practices were cancelled or postponed. The spread of the pandemic created a negative backdrop for living traditions. However, a number of rites and ceremonies were carried out despite the pandemic in accordance with their spatial and temporal reference. Due to the difficult epidemiological situation, the usual order of ceremonies was changed - their duration was reduced without changing the traditional rite structure. Only local residents participated in the rituals;although, formerly, many journalists and tourists had come to the villages from different parts of the country on the days of the ceremonies. For tradition bearers, such practices during a pandemic are a way to relieve stress and to share problems with people with similar interests. Traditions are one of the constants of their life;maintaining them in times of crises stabilizes the community. The coronavirus pandemic has caused a powerful explosion of folk art. The texts of various genres, both oral and written (graphic), are rapidly spreading on the Internet. A large number of them are based on the traditional worldview of Belarusians and are expressed in traditional forms (alterations, ditties, anecdotes, anti-sayings, paroemias, etc.). The role of humour has grown tremendously. Jokes and laughter in the face of an external threat are a compensatory mechanism that helps to overcome fear and uncertainty, and common laughter unites and helps to learn new rules of behaviour. Humour is not concerned with the threat of getting ill, but rather individual hygiene practices, the situation of quarantine, and circumstances of the new reality. Thus, humorous folklore becomes a way to adapt to new norms and to overcome fear and instability. © 2021 Eesti Keele InstituutAƒÂ‚A‚Â. All rights reserved.