Casimir Pulaski Day
Casimir Pulaski Day is a legal holiday which is celebrated in Illinois, as well as other states, in the United States on the first Monday of March. It is a local holiday that commemorates and celebrates the birthday of Casimir Pulaski – a Polish soldier who contributed to the Independence of the United States and is often called the “father of the American Calvary.” Since it is a legal holiday in Illinois, banks, schools, government buildings and some businesses may close for the day.
The Life and Death of Casimir Pulaski
Casimir Pulaski was born in Warka, Poland on March 4th, 1747. He inherited his father’s cause as one of the military commanders of the Confederation of Bar – which fought against the Russian domination of Poland. His uprising failed, however, and he was forced into exile. Eventually, Benjamin Franklin recommended him to George Washington and he immigrated to the United States to help with the American Revolution. Shortly thereafter, he joined George Washington’s army and engaged British troops at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. After charging enemy lines on his horse, which allowed American army troops to escape from the clutches of the British, he was promoted to brigadier general and was given the command of all the American cavalry.
Two years later, Casimir Pulaski would go on to break the British siege at Charleston, South Carolina. After that, he was sent to Savannah to work with the French allies. After the attack by the French failed, Pulaski jumped into the fray of battle to try to rally the troops. However, he was killed by a cannon ball and killed during that rally. Two days later, on October 11th, 1779, he died and was given a burial at sea. In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution that granted United States citizenship to Casimir Pulaski. It was signed on November 6th of that year by President Barack Obama.
History of Casimir Pulaski Day
During the 19th century, Chicago had become one of the central hubs of Polish immigration with thousands upon thousands arriving into the city every year. Many of these citizens faced enormous discrimination by the local population. During the 1930s, to combat this discrimination, many of the Polish citizens in Chicago decided to change the image of the Polish population by the locals by championing Casimir Pulaski – holding him up as a great Polish war hero during the Revolution. From the 1930s all the way through the early 1970s, the profile of Casimir Pulaski continued to grow until the Polish American Congress successfully lobbied for a law in Illinois designating the first Monday of March as Casimir Pulaski Day in 1977.
However, it was only a commemorative holiday at first – which meant that schools remained open on this day. It wouldn’t become a public holiday until 1985. Eventually, in some parts of Illinois other government offices and banks began to close on this day as well.
Casimir Pulaski Traditions & Celebrations
Over the last few years, Casimir Pulaski Day has become less popular as a public holiday in Illinois. In 2009, it became an optional holiday for schools and it has been estimated that almost three-fourths of all school districts no longer close on Casimir Pulaski Day. In Chicago in 2012, the public school schools decided not to celebrate this holiday at all from that date forward.
Many Polish communities celebrate the holiday by having public ceremonies, fairs, parades and group gatherings. Individuals can celebrate this holiday by learning more about the life and heroism of Casimir Pulaski.