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May 24, 2024

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Sharing Our May 3rd Constitution

A Polish-themed event definitely worth promoting…

By Robert Strybel
Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

No other American city celebrates Poland’s Third of May Constitution as impressively as Chicago, long known for its spectacular parade to mark the occasion. But every community, large or small, can and should honor that historic Polish milestone in some way. Its democratic principles will speak to the average American of whatever ethnic background, but first it is necessary to raise public awareness of the event. Some ideas:

Explaining the occasion: Polish Constitution Day will not ring a bell with many fellow-Americans, including some of Polish extraction so it needs ot be explained. Poles are proud of Europe’s first written constitution which was far ahead of its time and extended rights to all social classes. But those reforms frightened Poland’s aggressive neighbors – Russia, Prussia and Austria – who carved up Poland among them. Since then it has kept Poland’s spirit alive through times good, bad and worse.

Publicizing the event: To make the local community aware of this event, the relevant information should be sent to the local media, posted on online community calendars, Facebook or wherever. An ad can be taken out in the local paper or “May 3rd is Polish Constitution Day” can be posted on a rented billboard along heavily traveled thoroughfare.

School contests: An essay or poster contest or other project should be launched well in advance so the winners can be announced at the main local Third of May celebration. Topics can range from “What Poland’s May 3rd Constitution means to me” to focusing on some relevant historical event or personality. Attractive prizes, (Polish cultural goods, a free trip to Poland, etc.) will generate community interest.

Constitution Day Mass: A Mass on or around May 3rd, which is also the feast of Our Lady Queen of Poland, can be held in a church or as a field mass outdoors. Attendance by local officials, a color guard, other uniformed units (veterans, police, firemen, scouts,) and folk-costumed youth, etc. will enhance the occasion. The singing of “Boże coś Polskę”, and “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła” as well as “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” would be most appropriate.

May 3rd proclamation: Also appropriate would be arranging for governor, county executive or mayor)to issue a proclamation marking Polish Constitution Day. This is a good way to call attention to this occasion, because a public proclamation by a major official also attracts media coverage. In an election year, politicians usually cater to ethnic voters more than at other times times!

Flag-Raising: A flag-raising ceremony is a colorful but cost-free way of publicizing the occasion. The flagpoles in front of city hall or other public building are an excellent venue. The presence of public officials, uniformed units and a color guard, a gun salute and the playing of the Polish and U.S, national anthems will round out the ceremony. If a Constitution Day proclamation has been issued, this is the ideal time and place to read it out.

Public displays: An exhibition of documents, art reproductions and artifacts connected with the Third of May Constitution as well as other traditional Polish emblems, symbols, uniforms, historical mementos, folkcrafts, etc. is a fitting way to commemorate this occasion. Such an exhibition can be held at city hall, a public library, college or even shopping mall.

May 3rd Assembly: A play, dramatic narration, lecture, historical slide show, documentary or multi-media program incorporating some or all of the above are highly recommended. Appropriate musical selections could include: “Mazurek Trzeciego Maja”, Ogiński’s Polonaise “Pożegnanie Ojczyzny”, “Krakowiak Kosynierów” and “Warszawianka”.

Constitutional Run: Depending on circumstances a marathon (26 miles), semi-marathon/half-marathon (13 miles) or shorter foot race to mark the occasion may attract considerable local support, especially in areas where such events are not normally held.

Constitution Day Banquet: Rather than American-style roast beef and baked chicken or Polonian pierogi and gołąbki, an interesting twist might be to serve the kind of foods the framers of the May 3rd Constitution enjoyed. This might include Hussar-style beef roast, roast goose, game dishes (venison, pheasant), bigos and yeast-raised cakes (babka. kołacz, strucle). Polish mead (miód pitny – honey wine) would round out the menu. Sample menus of the period are found in “Polish Holiday Cookery” (Hippocrene, New York 2003).

May 3rd Parade: And last but not leastin areas where such an event has never been held, organizing a Polish Constitution Day parade might appear to be a dauntingly impossible project. However, if your locality already holds a parade to mark Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Veterans Day, Labor Day, or some local festival, you might be able to tap community know-how and contacts, and floats may be in local storage nearby.