3rd May - Constitution Day. A national holiday, a public holiday.
It is one of the most patriotic holidays in Poland. Independence Day on 11th November is in the cold and rainy season whereas the 3rd of May is the type of official ceremony which many Polish people prefer. It is a moment to be spent with their families in a truly festive atmosphere.
This holiday commemorates the Polish Constitution which after many years of debate, discussions and negotiations in the Sejm resulted in a national settlement signed on 3rd May 1791. Few people know that this was the first constitution in Europe and the second in the world (after The American Declaration of Independence of July 4 1776). The work of the Sejm and the Constitution itself were vital for Polish independence and were heroic actions in the war against the Russian occupation of Poland during those years. The Constitution changed the political system in Poland. It gave a new and modern way of ruling the country as we know it today with a separation of the functions of law making and the application of the law and the judging of citizens of the country. Such a division created a modern and democratic country, the first of its kind in Europe. Amongst many changes the peasants were promised a certain amount of freedom and the influence of the nobles was limited. The political system changed the Polish ruling system from a Parliamentary Monarchy to Constitutional Monarchy. New and very modern reforms were implemented and Poland finally had a chance to strengthen her independence and become one of the important and modern nations in Europe. However, the Russian ruler Catherine II with the connivance the Polish nobility (they were not happy with the changes that limited their influence) betrayed the nation which led to war with the Russians (1772) with Poland divided into Russian occupied areas and Austrian occupied areas and at the second Partition, Prussian occupied areas (1793). In 1795, with the Third Partition, Poland was removed from the map of Europe not to be reinstated until 1918.
The commemoration of the Constitution of 3rd of May is a very patriotic one. This is a symbol that this nation achieved something when together its people worked and united for their country. Courageous and controversial decisions had to be made (the limiting of the power of one group of people and increasing the influence of another). This was the only way that a modern and strong country could be created and this is why this date was so symbolic for Polish people during all the 123 years when Poland was under the rule of Prussian, Russian and Austrian invaders (1795-1918), then the Nazi occupation (1939-45) and finally the Russian occupation (1945-1989). This day as well as the history of the 3rd May Constitution 1791was banned for many years and not officially celebrated. Now we remember that on that day certain decisions and people created a great country and we can be proud of our part in the building of European democracy and in the establishment of the concept of the rights of the individual. And we can all celebrate 3rd May at festivities, historical presentations, parades and concerts.
Now you understand why this is an important day for us. So why not come and join us and celebrate as well.
last update March 2009