This month, we celebrated Easter and the unofficial end of a long and dreary winter – at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Shortly after Easter Sunday, many Slavic and Eastern European cultures celebrate a holiday known as Śmigus Dingus, or Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday). This day is collectively known as Dyngus Day in America and Canada, and it is quite commonly celebrated in cities such as Buffalo, Cleveland, and even South Bend.
During Dyngus Day, men would chase women they find attractive and spray them with water as a means of getting their attention. This act is not intended to be harmful, but instead fun-loving in nature. Additionally, this celebration also involves playfully brushing strangers with a willow branch (bazie). This tradition originates from Slavic people blessing willow branches instead of palm leaves on Palm Sunday, as palm trees were not native to parts of northern Europe. These branches were then used to bless others throughout the week following Easter, in the hopes of erasing all illness and sorrow from their lives.
What does Śmigus Dyngus actually mean?
Although this tradition has widely become associated with Poland, there exists debates as to what the exact origin of the two words are. Upon first glance, śmigus sounds awfully similar to śmigać, which means to chase/run after. This translation would make a lot of sense considering the customs of the holiday. However, the meaning of the word Dyngus is much more contested; the most common explanation behind this word is that it was adapted from the word ‘dyngować’, which means to purchase, bargain or appraise; in the context of Easter, this would be in reference to additional food such as eggs, meat and other Easter treats.
Future of Dyngus Day
The extensive celebrations associated with Dyngus Day – at least in the United States, have proven to be a sort of ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ for the Poles. Events like those in Buffalo, Cleveland and South Bend attract tens of thousands of people; familiarize non-poles with Polish culture, heritage, folk dance & music, and do an extraordinary job in reminding Polish diasporas of their heritage and traditions. Without such events and celebrations, Poles wouldn’t be able to hold onto their cultural identity as strongly, and the wider Polish community wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn from the rich and diverse Polish culture.
At Polaron, not only do we strongly encourage celebrating traditions, but we also believe in preserving and promoting cultural heritage for future generations, so your lineage wont ever lose touch of who they are and where they came from.
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