The May holidays – why we have three days off in Poland?
May 1 st is near, which in Poland means the start of the May holidays or Majówka! The 1 st, 2nd, and 3 rd of May are known as Labour Day, National Flag Day, and Constitution Day. Out of the three days, only the 1 st and 3 rd are public holidays but many take a day off on the 2nd to allow time for some kind of trip.
Labour Day, also known as May Day, is a remnant of the communist regime. Celebrated on May 1st, it used to be a day filled with parades, festivities, and concerts, celebrating the socialist regime. As Poland freed away from Soviet influence, many state holidays were discarded and new ones were established. But Labour Day was here to stay. Despite the negative connotations with the communist regime, no one would give up a day off work! The day also marks the EU Accession Day, when the largest expansion of the union took place. Poland was one of the numerous countries that joined the European Union in 2004. Nowadays, the public holiday doesn’t have any set festivities, apart from small concerts in city squares. It is usually a day for workers and students to enjoy the sunny weather Poland had to offer in May.
The photos from the communist Labour Day parades in Warsaw.
The Polish National Flag Day falls on May 2nd. It doesn’t have a long history like the other two days, given it’s only been around for 16 years. It was introduced as a holiday by an act passed on February 20th, 2004. Edward Płonka, a member of Sejm, initiated the idea. He believed the 2nd of May was the perfect opportunity for Poles to reflect on their history and heritage. Various patriotic celebrations are held around the country and people traditionally hang Polish flags on their windows or balconies.
Constitution Day is the last of the three but arguably the most important one. This day commemorates the declaration of the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791. This is a proud moment in Polish history, as it was the first Constitution signed in Europe and second in the world. The document sought to address the social and political faults of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It introduced political equality between the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, as well as granted protection to all peasants. Although most Poles saw it as a monumental event, some of Poland’s neighbors – Russia, Prussian, and Austria – saw it as a threat. That is why the leaders of mentioned countries decided to nip in the bud all reform attempts. They attacked Poland, divided its territory into three parts, and included them in their states. During 123 years, when Poland officially did not exist the holiday was outlawed. The constitution’s co-authors, Ignacy Potocki and Hugo Kołątaj called it “the last will and testament of the expiring Fatherland”
It was further banned by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. In 1990, the holiday returned to its current state. Today, the 3 rd of May is considered as one of the most significant holidays, celebrating a national symbol of Polish history. It is filled with parades, concerts, and speeches. The official festivities held in the capital, Warsaw, include military parades, reading the constitution preamble, and singing patriotic songs.
In the picture, we can see Stanisław Małachowski – the marshal of the Polish parliament with the constitution papers in his hand. The painting made by famous Polish historical painter Jan Matejko is held by the Royal Castle Musem in Warsaw.
The May break is the time for Poles to remember and celebrate their nation’s past. Poland’s broad history is rooted in those 3 days. But it’s also the time to simply rest and spend time with loved ones!