May 3rd marks the adoption of the Constitution of May 3, 1791 by the parliament of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This document served as a monumental milestone for the growth of democracy and equality of classes.
According to British historian, Norman Davies, it “was the first constitution of its type in Europe.” It sought to replace a growing anarchy with a democratic constitutional monarchy, which would remove the disproportionate rights between nobility and townspeople.
Though May 3rd was declared a national holiday in 1791, it was not always possible to celebrate the occasion due to partitions and wars. The holiday was reinstated in 1919 following Poland’s independence. When WWII broke out, it was outlawed again. In 1945, it was spontaneously celebrated again just once before it was removed from the communist approved list of holidays. From then until the holidays restoration, May 3rd was often an occasion for anti-government and anti-communist protests. The holiday was finally reinstated as an official Polish holiday in 1990 after the fall of communism.
Today, Polonia in Chicago joins Poland in celebration with the May 3rd Constitution Day Parade. This year, the parade took place on May 5th, beginning at the northwest corner of Grant Park. A sea of red and white moved down Columbus Dr. as hundreds of Polish Americans came out to celebrate their heritage and independence. The weather was beautiful and it was the perfect day to enjoy a parade and celebrate freedom.