03 May, Poland: Constitution Day

Constitution Day (Święto Narodowe Trzeciego Maja) in Poland marks the Constitution of the Third of May, which is universally hailed as one of the proudest achievements in Polish history.

"Adoption of the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791" by Jan Matejko (Wikimedia Commons)

This holiday commemorates the Polish Constitution that after many years of debate, discussions and negotiations resulted in a national settlement signed on 3rd May 1791.

This Constitution was the first in Europe and second in the world to formulate principles of government in a written form. It changed the political system in Poland and created a new and modern way of ruling the country. It was intended to be a starting point for the creation of a modern state and a modern society.

May 3 was first declared a holiday on May 5 in 1791. It was banned during the partitions of Poland and became an official Polish holiday again in April 1919 under the Second Polish Republic, only to be banned once more by the Nazi and Soviet occupiers during World War II.

After the 1946 anti-communist student demonstrations it lost support with the authorities and was replaced with May 1 Labour Day celebrations. In 1951 May 3 was officially changed to the Day of the Democratic Party and was removed from the list of national holidays.

Until 1989 – when it became a national holiday again – it was a common day for anti-government and anti-communist protests.

Like its official relative the Independence Day (Narodowe Święto Niepodległości), which commemorates the anniversary of Poland's assumption of independent statehood in 1918, Constitution Day is celebrated with ceremonies, marches, concerts and other festivities.

Published Aug. 24, 2010 11:51 AM - Last modified Aug. 24, 2010 2:47 PM