Polish-flavored events and celebrations for May

Święto Polonii – Polonia Day (May 2): In 2002, the Senate of the Republic of Poland set aside May 2nd as a day to honor the world-wide Polonia which happens to coincide with World Immigration Day. All types of activities promoting Polonia’s history and achievements are very much in order. Since this year it falls on a Friday, it can be nicely combined with Third of May celebrations to forma Polish Weekend.

Święto Flagi Polskiej – Polish Flag Day (May 2): Two years later Polish Flag Day was proclaimed. This is an occasion to display Poland’s white and red flag which in Polonia is often crossed with the Star Spangled banner. The proximity of Polish Constitution day (May 3) extends the opportunity for displaying Poland’s colors.

Święto Trzeciego Maja – Third of May (Polish Constitution Day): The anniversary of Europe’s first written constitution has traditionally been celebrated wherever people of Polish heritage are found. The May 3rd anniversary of the Third of May Constitution is celebrated in the Church as the Feastday of Our Lady Queen of Poland. Typical commemorations include Holy Mass (often a field mass in an outdoor setting), parades, patriotic assemblies, flag-raisings, wreath-layings, banquets, Polish festivals and other festivities. Other things to consider are exhibitions at city hall, school, the public library or community center, an essay contest, lectures, discussions, symposia and concerts. If sufficient know-how and manpower is available, a play honoring the framers of the May 3rd Constitution could be staged. The sky is virtually the limit, and this year the opportunities are even greater because the occasion falls on a weekend. If it is too late to organize things this year, then maybe your club, parish or other group should already start thinking about May 3rd, 2009.

NOTE: In addition to the Polish National Anthem (“Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła”) and the religious anthem (Boże coś Polskę…”), the rousing Third of May Mazurka is the ideal selection with which to commemorate Polish Constitution Day celebrations. The words and music to this and other patriotic and military songs are found in Hippocrene’s Polish Heritage Songbook and Polanie Publishers’ well-known Treasured Polish Songs.

Mazurek Trzeciego Maja

Witaj Majowa jutrzenko,

Świeć naszej polskiej krainie,

Uczcimy Ciebie piosenką

Przy zabawie i przy winie.

Refren: Witaj Maj, piękny Maj,

U Polaków błogi raj!

O Maja Trzeciego zorzo,

Pod Twoimi promieniami,

Przez armaty z łaską Bożą,

Idziem w Polskę z bagnetami.

Refren: Witaj Maj, piękny Maj,

U Polaków błogi raj!

Third of May Mazurka

Hail May’s dawn so elated

On our homeland may it shine,

With a song we’ll celebrate it,

With amusement and with wine.

Refrain: Hail May, lovely May,

For us Poles a glorious day.

May Third’s dawn enflames the sky,

Shine on us your radiance glowing,

Foes by God’s grace we defy,

Bayonets fixed, banners flowing

Refrain: Hail May, lovely May,

For us Poles a glorious day.

Nabożeństwa majowe – May devotions: May has traditionally been the month set aside to honor the Najświętsza Maria Panna (Holiest Virgin Mary). It is the month of daily Marian devotions that include the rosary, Marian hymns and litanies as well as processions and crownings of statues of the BVM. These devotions are now less widespread than they once were, when Polish communities were more concentrated, but they continue across Polonia and are even being started from scratch at newly established Polish

American pastoral centers. In a Pol

Am setting, on weekends the Marian devotions are often combined with a parish fair, fest, picnic or supper.

Written by Polish Jesuit, Father Karol Antoniewicz (1807-1852), this is one of Poland’s most beautiful Marian hymns typically sung at May devotions.

Chwalcie łąki umajone

Chwalcie łąki umajone,

Góry, doliny zielone,

Chwalcie cieniste gaiki,

Źródła i kręte strumyki

Co igra z morza falami,

W powietrzu buja skrzydłami,

Chwalcie z nami Panią świata,

Jej dłoń nasza wieniec splata.

Ona dzieł Boskich korona,

Nad Anioły wywyższona,

Choć jest Panią nieba, ziemi,

Nie gardzi dary naszymi.

Praise the meadows

Praise the meadows draped in greenery,

Verdant hills and valley scenery,

Shady groves though which we wander,

Praise the springs, the brook’s meander.

She can taunt the surging seas,

Fly the sky on wings of breeze,

Praise with us the Queen of Nations

Glory’s wreath – her hand’s creations.

She crowns what God has created,

Above angels elevated.

Though She’s queen of earth and heaven,

Yet she finds our offerings pleasant.

Dzień Świętego Stanisława – Feast of St. Stanislaus (May 8): Celebrated at nameday parties by the many Poles named Stanisław, it becomes a major religious event in Kraków the following Sunday. There Poland’s bishops gather to lead a procession through the streets bearing the relics of Polish saints from Wawel Cathedral to the shrine at Skalka. In a Polonian setting, this would be the ideal occasion for the annual parish “odpust” (indulgence-fair) for parishes named after St, Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr. Special contests or prizes for all those in attendance named Stanisław, Stanley or Staś might be considered.

Dzień Matki – Mother’s Day (US: May 11; Poland: May 26): This is the day we honor our Polish or Polish-American mothers and grandmothers with flowers and gifts. Consider Polish books, CDs, amber, crystal, folkcrafts or whatever their fancy happens to be. Perhaps we could treat them to a traditional Polish dinner at home or take them out to a Polish restaurant. Some Pol-Am clubs and parishes traditionally hold community Mother’s Day events. This often starts with Holy Mass, followed with a breakfast or lunch. A Mother’s Day banquet might also be considered. Appropriate entertainment might include a recitation of mother-related poetry, a choir or instrumental performance or folk-dance presentation.

Boże Ciało – Corpus Christi (this year: May 22): This feast honoring the Holy Eucharist usually falls in June, but due to this year’s exceptionally early Easter is being celebrated on May 22. Corpus Christi is not a legal holiday in America, it has become the practice to move the feast to the nearest Sunday. The main celebration is Holy Mass which ends with a procession in the surrounding streets. Processing beneath a canopy, the priest bears the Eucharist in a Monstrance, with two more parish activists propping up his elbows. Girls in First Holy Communion dresses strew the way with flower, as altarboys perfume the airs with incense and jangle altar-bells. As they process to each of four outdoor altars, participants sing Eucharistic hymns, often to the accompaniment of a marching band. Marchers may include uniformed police, firemen, soldiers, veterans and scouts, folk-costumed youth, members of parish societies bearing religious banners, with rank and file parishioners following in behind. A parish fair, fest or picnic often follows the religious exercises.

Pochód Lajkonika –Tartar Hobbyhorse Parade (Octave of Corpus Christi): Since Corpus Christi is a solemnly religious experience, this more frivolous event is held on the following Thursday. The Lajkonik, a memento of the 13th-centzury Mongolian invasion of Poland, is a bearded figure in who prances about on a wooden hobbyhorse. (He actually walks on his own legs only holding a prop made to resemble the horse’s head and torso.) The parade wends its way through Old Kraków to the Norbertine Monastery with plenty of gags, fun and general merriment along the way. The Lajkonik figure also appears at other Kraków-themed fests and fairs and might be worth promoting more widely among our Polonia.

Święto Pamięci –Memorial Day (May 26th): This is not a Polish-originated holiday, because Poles honor their dead on All Saints and All Souls Days (Nov. 1-2), but it has taken on a Polish flavor across Polonia. Pol-Ams gather around the Polish Soldiers’ Monument at Chicago’s Maryhill Cemetery to honor fallen servicemen with a memorial service and floral wreaths. Participants include War veterans, concentration-camp survivors, a Polish Boy Scout drum corps and highlanders in folk attire. Hymns and military selections are played by a parish brass band. Even if such trappings are locally unattainable, Polish and American flags can be placed on the graves of loved ones together with flowers and votive lamps. If a Memorial Day parade, festival or others community events are held in your area, be sure the festivities have a Polish presence.

Compiled by Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

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