"Airborne Eddy Dobosiewicz and Marty Biniasz, founders of dyngusdaybuffalo.com, discuss the origins of Dyngus Day in Buffalo, NY
2011 Dyngus Day Photo Gallery
Early History of Dyngus Day: Some contend that Dyngus originates from the baptism on Easter Monday of Mieszko I (Duke of the Polans, c. 935–992) in 966 AD, uniting all of Poland under the banner of Christianity. Dualism and "twins" are featured in Slavic pre-Christian paganism. Dyngus and Śmigus were twin pagan gods; the former representing water and the moist earth (Dyngus from din gus – thin soup or dingen – nature); and the later representing thunder and lightning (Śmigus from śmigać or to make a whooshing sound). In this theory, the water tradition is the transformation of the pagan water god into the Christian baptism. The custom of pouring water was an ancient spring rite of cleansing, purification, and fertility. It is alleged that the pagan Poles bickered with nature/Dyngus by means of pouring water and switching with willows to make themselves pure and worthy of the coming year. Others have suggested that the striking tradition is the transformation of the ritual "slap" of Christian confirmation. However, still others suggest that the Śmigus tradition is actually simply a youthful recapitulation of a Good Friday Polish tradition, in which parents wake their children with switches from twigs, saying the words of a Lenten prayer "God's wounds" – "Boże rany".
Early, the Dyngus custom was clearly differentiated from śmigus: dyngus was the exchange of gifts (usually eggs, often decorated – pisanka pl. pisanki), under the threat of water splashing if one party did not have any eggs ready, while Śmigus referred to the striking.
Later the focus shifted to the courting aspect of the ritual, and young unmarried girls were the only acceptable targets. A boy would sneak into the bedroom of the girl he fancied and awaken her by drenching her with multiple buckets of water. Politics played an important role in proceedings, and often the boy would get access to the house only by arrangement with the girl's mother.
Throughout the day, girls would find themselves the victims of drenchings and leg-whippings, and a daughter who was not targeted for such activities was generally considered to be unattractive and unmarryable in this very coupling-oriented environment.
Most recently, the tradition has changed to become fully water-focused, and the śmigus part is almost forgotten. It is quite common for girls to attack boys just as fiercely as the boys traditionally attacked the girls. With much of Poland's population residing in tall apartment buildings, high balconies are favorite hiding places for young people who gleefully empty full buckets of water onto randomly selected passers-by.
Polonia Music Videos
Buffalo’s Dyngus Day Parade, the first and only kind of parade in the world, will march through the Historic Polonia District passing numerous Dyngus Day celebrations including those at Central Terminal, St. Stanislaus Church, Corpus Christi Church, The Adam Plewacki American Legion Post 799 and the Adam Mickewicz Library and Dramatic Circle. Parade organizers anticipate more than 150 parade entries and over 50,000 spectators this year.
“The Dyngus Day Parade has become a uniquely Buffalo tradition,” explained Parade Director Bernadette Pawlak. “2011 is a very special year as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of modern Dyngus Day in America. We welcome volunteers to assist in parade preparation as we expect that this will be the biggest Dyngus Day parade in history.”
A Polish-American tradition, Dyngus Day celebrates the end of the restrictive observance of Lent and the joy of Easter. Over the decades, Buffalo, New York has become the Dyngus Day Capital of the World attracting thousands of people from across the northeast United States. Although celebrated in Buffalo’s Polonia neighborhood since the arrival of the first Poles in the 1870s, the city’s first modern Dyngus Day celebration was held 50 years ago by the Chopin’s Singing Society, a tradition that continues today. Dyngus Day Buffalo, the provider of marketing and organizational support to area celebrations was founded in 2005. Dyngus Day 2011 will take place on Monday, April 25th.
The Dyngus Day tradition of playfully switching girls with pussywillow branches and sprinkling them with water is strongly associated with the Catholic religion (dominant in Poland) today. The custom originated before the conversion of Polish tribes to Christianity in the 10th century. In order for the tribal people living on the Polish territory to accept the new religion, the Church decided to combine the "barbaric" customs with the culture of Catholicism. Splashing water on girls was one of these customs.
In the Dyngus Day spirit!
Fr. Ted Bocianowski enjoying a sunny 2014 Dyngus Day parade. Look at that smile! Sto lat, Father!
2010 Dyngus Day Photo Gallery
CLICK HERE to view the full Jimmy Strurr Dyngus Day video
The video below shows how the day after Easter is celebrated in the southern Małopolska region of Poland especially in the area of Limanowa. Men parade through the village wearing high hats and outfits made of straw. In Mielec these "silent beggars" squirt water with wishes for a good harvest. Of course it's the ladies who get all their attention. Great fun! (I read about this in the PAJ.)