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What Is Dyngus Day?

Dyngus Day, celebrated on Easter Monday, is a Polish holiday marking the end of Lent with joyous festivities, playful pranks, and cultural traditions. It's a day of feasting, water dousing, and willow branch tapping, symbolizing the arrival of spring. Embrace the vibrant spirit of this unique celebration—how might it enliven your own springtime rituals?
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Dyngus Day, sometimes spelled Dingus Day, is a holiday that is celebrated in Poland as well as in some Polish communities in the United States. This holiday always takes place on Easter Monday and it's meant to be a fun, light-hearted holiday. It is also called Wet Monday as the tradition of Dyngus Day is for males to soak females with water from buckets, hoses and the like. Traditionally, the females are supposed to get their revenge on Tuesday by throwing dishes, but now most females just soak the men back with water on the same day.

The history of the holiday dates back to the Easter Monday 966 A.D. baptism of the Polish prince Mieszko I. This was a significant baptism because it was taken by the Polish people to mean that all of Poland was Christian. Since baptism is thought to relate to purification, cleansing and fertility, the idea somehow adapted into Dyngus Day and boys soaking girls with water. Water traditions also relate to the mass Lithuanian baptisms that took place after the Lithuanian Duke, Jagiello, and the Polish Queen, Jadwiga, were married.

Man holding a globe
Man holding a globe

Dyngus Day is meant as a fun holiday after the serious period of Lent. The actual Easter Monday act of soaking a person with water and/or hitting him or her with switches of pussy willows is called Smigus Dyngus. Originally, Smigus Dyngus referred to a sort of trick-or-treating tradition that has mostly died out in urban areas. It involved the use of a special cart and rooster brought to each house in order to collect food and drink. The rooster was either real or carved from wood.

Still another legend associated with Dygnus Day is one that remembers a Polish Princess named Wanda. The use of water to soak females is said to remember Wanda as she chose to drown herself in the Wilsa River rather than marry a man she didn't love. Religiously, Dyngus Day marks the start of Polish Catholicism.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Dyngus Day and how is it celebrated?

Dyngus Day, also known as Easter Monday, is a Polish holiday celebrated on the Monday after Easter Sunday. Traditionally, it involves playful pranks, water fights, and the tapping of girls' legs with pussy willows. The day is marked by a festive atmosphere, with people enjoying Polish foods, music, and dance, often wearing traditional Polish attire. In the United States, particularly in cities with large Polish communities like Buffalo, New York, Dyngus Day parades and parties are common.

When did Dyngus Day originate?

Dyngus Day's origins are not precisely documented, but it is believed to date back to the Middle Ages. The celebration has pagan roots, associated with the arrival of spring and the nature's rebirth. It later became intertwined with Christian traditions following Easter. The exact year of its origin remains unclear, but it has been a part of Polish culture for centuries.

Is Dyngus Day celebrated outside of Poland?

Yes, Dyngus Day is celebrated outside of Poland, particularly in countries with significant Polish diaspora. The United States, especially in cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, and South Bend, hosts large Dyngus Day celebrations. These events can include polka bands, Polish food, and even the crowning of Miss Dyngus. The holiday serves as a way for Polish communities abroad to celebrate their heritage and share it with others.

What traditional foods are associated with Dyngus Day?

Traditional Polish cuisine is a highlight of Dyngus Day, featuring dishes such as kielbasa (Polish sausage), pierogi (stuffed dumplings), golabki (cabbage rolls), and rye bread. Sweet treats like paczki (Polish doughnuts) and babka (a sweet yeast cake) are also popular. These foods are enjoyed at home and at community gatherings, contributing to the festive atmosphere of the day.

How do people dress for Dyngus Day celebrations?

For Dyngus Day celebrations, many participants wear traditional Polish folk costumes, which can include embroidered vests, white blouses, and floral skirts for women, and hats, boots, and belts for men. Red and white, the colors of the Polish flag, are prominently featured. In the U.S., it's also common to see people wearing red apparel or Dyngus Day-themed shirts at parades and parties.

Are there any specific customs or traditions unique to Dyngus Day?

Unique customs of Dyngus Day include boys sprinkling girls with water and gently swatting them with pussy willows, while girls reciprocate or retaliate the next day. This playful custom is rooted in the symbolic meanings of water and willow branches, representing cleansing, fertility, and life. Another tradition is the singing of Dyngus Day carols, which are special songs composed for the occasion.

How has Dyngus Day evolved in modern times?

In modern times, Dyngus Day has evolved from its traditional roots to become a broader celebration of Polish culture and heritage, especially in the diaspora. While the water fights and pussy willow tapping still occur, the day also includes street festivals, live music performances, and community events that focus on Polish history, art, and family activities. It's a day for Polish pride and cultural education, as well as fun and festivity.

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Discussion Comments

anon997950

To keep the great tradition, a somewhat new organization known as the Port Richmond Business Alliance is having their first Dyngus Day celebration on April 17, 2017 in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. I hope we get a good turnout so I can post the success! Proceeds are intended to help our neighborhood Catholic schools and the Polish American social service.

anon946619

Dyngus Day is celebrated in South Bend, IN. Unfortunately it has turned into the kick off of the political season and all the politicians come out from under their rocks and blow hot air in our faces. I wish it would be held in the traditional manner.

anon933604

I grew up and still live in a very old, traditionally Polish neighborhood in Philadelphia called Port Richmond. When I was a kid we celebrated Dingus Day and I never even realized it was a Polish thing until I was much older.

We used to throw water balloons and toss buckets of water on people off of the rooftops and stuff. I remember kids used to throw cheapo cologne and perfume on each other as a joke to stink each other up. Not sure if that part of it was traditional or whatever, but we did it anyway.

It was pretty wild growing up in Philly back in the seventies. I live here still with my family and the kids still do celebrate Dingus Day. (Sad that I had to ask my 12 year old daughter) Funny that I looked it up online and it has lots about Buffalo and some other places but nothing about Philadelphia. Believe me, Dingus Day is alive and well here in the City of Brotherly Love!!

anon173747

Dyngus Day festivities are very much alive and thriving in the Buffalo, NY area. I've been putting on a Dyngus celebration for 22 years at the Leonard Post VFW in Cheektowaga. People from all around the country come to celebrate the many festivities that happen the whole Eater weekend in Buffalo, NY. Every year it gets bigger!

Domido

@laluna - I love the thoughts of Dyngus Day, although I've never participated myself. I think I would rather go with the water version myself! It sounds like fun and too much perfume makes me sneeze! Here's to a Happy Dyngus Day in all its forms!

dimpley

Dyngus Day sounds like a hoot! I think we should all gather together in mass and bring it back to the forefront of tradition! A whole day of relaxed fun – and I think it could quite easily become another day off from work for many folks! Who doesn’t like the idea of that!

tlcJPC

Well, this is a great little piece of history! Dyngus Day is something that I was not familiar with, and so I was a little surprised and intrigued with the concept! I think that it sounds like a great way to open up the nicely warm days of spring! I mean, what better way than to have some water fun! And, personally, I am very open to throwing some dishes at the men in my life! Not only might I get in a lick or two, but I’d get to buy all new dishes every single year!

laluna

I have heard of this tradition, however not knowing that dyngus day was a polish tradition. I think there is a slight variation to this custom, however, instead of water being used to spray the ladies, perfume is used instead.

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