03/05/2012 03:42 pm ET

Casimir Pulaski Day 2012: Chicago Celebrates Polish Heritage

Illinoisans off school or work Monday owe thanks to Casimir Pulaski, the Polish military commander-turned-American Revolutionary War hero honored annually in Chicago on the first Monday in March.

A statewide holiday since 1977, Casimir Pulaski Day honors the man himself, but also commemorates the heritage of Polish-Americans citywide. Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw.

Since public schools, Cook County courts and government offices citywide will be closed Monday, the holiday provides a perfect opportunity for adventuring in the city, whether in the festive spirit of Casimir Pulaski day, or not.

  • St. Hyacinth Basilica, a Catholic church at 3640 W. Wolfram St. serving a largely Polish neighborhood in the city, conducts services in Polish if you can catch them, but is worth a visit any time to take in its breathtaking architecture.
  • Interested in festivities after a full work day? Test your letter-smithing at The Ace Bar's Drinking Spelling Bee, and pray they don't hit you with anything in Pulaski's native tongue. Located at 1505 West Fullerton Ave.
If a return to the motherland is all you can think of to celebrate Casimir Pulaski, Rep. Mike Quigley's got your back--the Congressman announced Monday he would push for Poland's inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program to make visits to and from America easier.