Labor Day, Flag Day and Constitution Day – May 1-3

In Poland, the beginning of May is a time for remembrance and celebration. They get three days of holiday in a row (though the 2nd technically is still a work day), which is used to spend time with the family while remembering Poland’s past. So, though I’ve been back in Canada for four months now, I thought I’d quickly look back at Poland for a little bit before I leave for Thailand. A quick description of each holiday follows:

May 1st – Labor Day

Officially in Poland the day is called Święto Bezimienne (Feast of the Unknown?) but is more commonly know as Świętem Pracy (Labor Day). While Canada and the United States celebrate Labor Day in September, more than 80 countries around the world celebrate an International Workers Day on May 1st and have done so consistently since 1890. While practically it ends up being a day to spend with one’s family, it started as a commemoration of worker solidarity. Under the Communist regime (1945-1989) in Poland, the day was accompanied by propaganda and mandatory marches.

See some video footage here:

May 2nd – Flag Day

Unlike Labor Day or Constitution Day, Flag Day is not a day off from work and is a relatively new holiday that was instituted in 2004. And, unlike Canada, the United States, and most other countries that celebrates a Flag Day, Poland’s  Flag Day commemorates the hoisting of the Polish flag onto the Berlin Victory Column on the last day of the Battle of Berlin (May 2nd, 1945). Most other countries celebrate the day their current flag was adopted, but Poland chose to celebrate this event because it is important for Poland to emphasize its often forgotten role during the last days of fighting in WWII. In addition, many people have apparently taken to wearing the National Cockade during this day (but I have no idea how widespread that is today).

May 3rd – Constitution Day

This holiday has been celebrated since the Duchy of Warsaw in the first half half of the nineteenth century. Becoming an official holiday in 1919 it celebrates the declaration of the Constitution of May 3, 1791. The Polish are very proud of this document as it was the first of its kind in Europe and perhaps the second anywhere after the United States’ in 1787. Unfortunately, the countries surrounding Poland were all monarchists and were not going to tolerate republican ideals spreading to their empires. Thus Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire re-instituted partitions of Poland in 1793 until Poland was whipped off the map in 1795. Nevertheless, once Poland was resurrected in 1918 they made sure to celebrate their achievement once more. That is, until communist occupation banned such celebration until 1989.

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