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May 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Polish Calendar

For about 10-15 years these days constitute a long weekend for Poles. This became something like a long Mayday weekend in Poland.

We will start with Mar the 3rd, in the reverse order

May 3

The oldest feast of course is a feast of May 3rd which is devoted to the day of constitution, since the famous Constitution of the 3rd May was established on that day. Read the article The Radicalism of the May 3rd Constitution. Read also about the celebration of 3rd of May in Polish embassy in Washington DC: Poland and Lithuania Observe "3rd of May" . 3rd of July is also a religious feast. This day is called the Day of St. Mary a Queen of Poland. This feast was established by a pope on a request of Polish bishops after regaining the freedom by Poland at the end of World War I. The religious holiday of the 3rd of June is a consequence of the political anniversary of the Constitution.

May 2

Flag Day, it is also celebrated as a day of Polish immigration or Poles abroad, so called Polonia Day. See the Polish Immigration articles.
The Flag Day was established by a decree on February 20, 2004 when the change in Polish coat of arm, shade of colors of the flags and Polish anthem were introduced. This day is also called a day of White Eagle. Polish Eagle constitutes a Polish coat or arm. Although May 2nd is formally not a free day, it is often a part of the long holiday or weekend which starts with May 1st and finishes with May 3rd. Check the article Poland Flag - Basic Information - Facts - Statistics to see Polish flag and a coat of arms.

May 1

May 1 parade But the history as usually is twisted. After the War World II, the communistic government ignored May 3rd holiday since it was related to Poland during the reign of the kings, nobles and bourgeois. Instead, the May 1st was established as the communistic Labor Day holiday (International Workers' Day). see the photo from May 1st ceremony from Gazeta Wyborcza on the left.

As some of you may remember the origin of May 1st traces back to the Chicago Riot in 1886, but it became officially celebrated since 1890. After World War II all countries of Eastern (Soviet) block organized pompous ideological parades during that day.

Polish Roman Catholic Church also accepted this day in its calendar and it was commonly celebrated as the Day of St. Joseph, a laborer, since St. Joseph was a carpenter. This is one of the newest Catholic holidays. It was established by the pope Pius XII in 1956.

The 1st of May, in spite of its communistic origin had also some joys. Although many people were required to participate in the obligatory parades, after the parades the families took part in street and park festivities or the picnics. This is what I remember from my early childhood when I was unable to grasp the ideology yet. For me this was the atmosphere of a Mayday, festivities and balloons among other children and scouts in the parks and on the streets.

Before the first of May, the general Spring cleaning of the streets was taking place. Town streets were re-painted with fresh signs or zebras, the grass and flower beds were watered, decorated and refreshed, the town went through obligatory Spring cleaning. Even the stores are supplied in better products. People could buy some usually deficient food products or meat which were usually hard to find. The communistic government wanted people to have a good attitude towards their holiday just like Romans or Greeks which were organizing sport plays for the masses.

Even at our home the Spring cleaning took place I remember that on that day my mother asked me to remove my winter cloths from the closet and fill it up with the summer ones.

The very political and ideological part of the parade was something which almost everybody hated. This was the day when the old veterans of communistic party or their widows were especially celebrated. There were walking in the first raws of the parades. Chopin (revolutionary and patriotic) etudes were played during the parades in the most important moments. Therefore, some of them remind me about the communistic ideology until now and I do not like them. When I was in the highschool, we were required to prepare a program for the parade (just the marching steps) and to participate in the parade in my hometown Krakow. the absence was considered a very serious offense. We had to wait sometimes for hours until our town district was able to walk. This was very tiring and frankly, senseless.

During the years, the atmosphere of the celebration eased slightly, but the ideological slant was still there. The buildings and people were decorated with red (communistic) or red-white (Polish) colors. The texts of the slogans were changing but they were still ideologically slanted.

Since 2001 this day is celebrated in many European countries as so called Mayday to commemorate humanistic aspect of peoples' work. It lost its ideological twist and it is spontaneous rather than obligatory duty like it was in communistic countries until the late 80-es. See some pictures from May 1st parades:

  • Girls in the parade - probably late 60-es or early 70-es
  • May 1st Parade seen from the window (featured on the photo above)
  • In town Ostroleka - early 70-es
  • Polish scouts (harcerze) in the front, "Socialism - a future of the world" on the sign

 


Recommended reading(s):

Eyewitness Travel Guide to PolandEyewitness Travel Guide to Poland (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by Teresa Czerniewics-Umer, Malgorzata Omilanowska, Jerzy S. Majewski, DK Travel Writers

 

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