Polish Language Blog

Polish Independence Day Posted by on Nov 12, 2008 in Culture

Yesterday (November 11th) was the Polish Independence Day (Dzień Niepodległości), but according to my contact in Gdańsk, the celebrations were mostly invisible. The white and red flags appeared on street corners, but I was told that was about the extent of it. Most people were just happy to get an extra day off. And what did they do with their day off? They went shopping, of course. Apparently, the malls places that dared to defy the new law ordering them to stay shut for the holiday (and there were a few of them) were quite crowded.

Yes, as you can see, I’m back in Gdańsk. And I plan to continue with my to-do list, which I had prepared for my last visit three weeks ago.

But back to the Independence Day topic, shall we? It’s a relatively new holiday. I say “relatively” because it didn’t exist back in the olden times when I was born. Back then I think, but don’t quote me on it, Poland had a different “independence” day, which wasn’t even called that. Instead, it was called “National Day of Rebirth of Poland on the anniversary of signing the PKWN Manifesto” and it was celebrated on July 22nd, and if you ask me, that was quite pointless in the first place. A major holiday in the middle of summer when everybody was on vacation anyway? Well, that’s the famous communist logic (or rather – lack thereof) for you.

Personally, this independence day, reminds me of Thanksgiving. In a way, it’s also a day to give thanks, and on November 11th many Poles do just that. Initially – they gave thanks for the end of the communist rule, now for an extra day to shop.

But seriously, it’s supposed to commemorate the anniversary of the foundation of the Second Polish Republic in 1918 after 123 years of partitions by Austria, Germany and Russia. It was celebrated only twice before WW2, and then reinstated in 1989.

Few people remember now (especially few young people) that back in the olden days there was also a holiday in early November, alas for a very different reason. It used to mark the anniversary of the Russian (October) Revolution and was celebrated on November 7th. And in 1989 the government knew they couldn’t just take away a day off and give nothing in return. So voila, we have a redressed holiday with a different name and an occasion we can be proud of.

And the old “independence” day on July 22nd? Now it’s a day to celebrate the Baltic Sea,
or somesuch.

PS. I’m having a hard time uploading images, so we’ll have to wait until I get to a computer that I can actually use 😉

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  1. Piotr:

    It’s rather not possible that malls were open on Independence Day. 11th November is one of the dozen holidays when shops have to be closed unless the owner himself or a temporary employee stands behind the counter. This new law was passed a little more than one year ago.

  2. Thomas Westcott:

    Witam Anna,

    It is interesting that ‘holidays’ can and do change with the political climate. Of course one could say that holidays are culturally based.

    Of note for you is that of Calenders given out by many businesses to promote themselves. One such that I have and use comes from Gilmart, on south Archer avenue in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Gilmart is a Polih grocery store with a very large delictessen. They even have a small cafeteria within the store. One of the nice features of this calender is that it lists Polish, American, and Canadian Holidays.

    To bad we can not take advantage of both sets of holidays? I wonder if Polish diplomats here or American diplomats there get to celebrate extra holidays?

    Other features that I like are the scenic pictures of Poland, the use of both languages, and the names for name day. I believe that you talked about the Polish custom of celebrating name days somewhere else in your blog.

    Do Polish Businesses in Poland give away calenders in December to advertise their business during the coming year?

    Szczerze, Thomas

  3. Anna:

    Piotr, you are right, I meant “markets.” I just asked and my friend confirmed that quite a few of the big places were flaunting the law and stayed open. At least in 3city. And apparently, it was a non-issue.

  4. Anna:

    Hi Thomas!
    My dad’s business had tons of calendars from suppliers, partners and such. Unfortunately, they didn’t have scenic Polish vistas but more practical pictures of scantily clad models posing with high-end industrial heating equipment.
    But it must be a fairly recent custom.

  5. Jessica D.:

    I spent some time at the Polish Army Veterans Association in New York City, and I was interested to learn that even though they’ve lived in America for most of their lives and they’re veterans, November 11 is not considered Veterans Day. To them, it’s a day to celebrate their country – not themselves. I wrote more about it here: http://blogs.journalism.cuny.edu/interactive2010/2009/11/13/polish-veterans-in-america/