Dyngus Day

Chocolate Babka


For several years now a small group of friends and neighbours have celebrated Dyngus Day.

It began when my wife and I were in Buffalo and saw a poster at our hotel promoting Dyngus Day celebrations. Further investigation revealed that Buffalo hosts the largest Dyngus Day outside of Poland. I mentioned it to a good friend and it turns out he had a Polish grandmother and her pierogy recipe. In the 1980's my parents helped a group of five Polish dancers defect to Canada who I refer to as my "Polish brothers". From these tenuous links to the Mother Poland our small Dyngus Day celebration was born.

Dyngus Day, or Śmigus-dyngus as it is called in the homeland, is celebrated on Easter Monday called Wet Monday in Poland. The festival has its origins in the pagan past of eastern Europe but the Polish version is particularly unique. Young men wake young girls they fancy in the morning and either throw water on them or toss them into a nearby pond. Afterwards the girls are whipped with pussy willow twigs. There are many extensions and alternative practices found throughout Poland. The American versions include parades, polka bands, Polish food and liquor and for some reason, the singing of patriotic American songs.

In our Canadianized celebration the water dousing and pussy willow whipping has been replaced by a celebration involving Polish beer, vodka, perogies, meat sticks and chocolate babka. The chocolate babka is more of a Jewish thing but we like it better than the traditional dried fruit Polish version. Polish history is rich with politics and foreign invasion, but at one point Poland was ruled by the Swedish Vasa dynasty. Perhaps related to Canada's Junior and Olympic hockey rivalry with Sweden, we have grasped on to this historical inequity and let's just say the Swedes are not spoken of in a positive manner during our celebrations. 

Polish food, drink and music are featured along with attempts to learn the Polish language - at least enough to make a few toasts and decry the injustice of the Swedish occupation of the homeland. We pay homage to the gender traditions of the festival by having a Polish trivia competition between men and women. The men prevailed in last year's competition that came down to a tiebreaker. The tie breaking question was to draw a map showing the outline of Poland which is essentially a square.

I would encourage you to celebrate Polish heritage and history by frying up some perogies, raising a Tyskie beer or Krypnic liquor and saluting this country that has endured though the ages and produced so many great people - Copernicus, Marie Curie, Frederic Chopin, Joseph Conrad and Pope John Paul II.


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