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From the Grapevine: Everyone should celebrate Polish Dyngus Day

Happy National Dyngus Day! The day after Easter is celebrated by Polish Americans across the country to celebrate the start of spring and the end of Lent by partaking in Polish festivities. The Dyngus Day tradition is for boys to douse girls they like with water using buckets or squirt guns. April 1, this “Polish St. Patrick’s Day” can be celebrated by anyone, Polish or not, to welcome the budding of spring and love. 

The word “dyngus” loosely translates to “worthy,” and the holiday itself comes from the history of Polish Christianity. The first historic ruler of Poland, Prince Mieszko I, is said to have been baptized in 966 A.D. on Easter Monday. Mieszko brought Christianity to Poland, started the Piast dynasty and expanded Poland to the Baltic Sea. The pouring of water symbolizes his baptism as a rite of cleansing, purification and fertility.

In modern times, Polish farm boys throw water on girls or hit their legs with twigs and pussy willows, riverside branches with soft ends. Pussy willows are known as the first budding plant of springtime and get their name from an old Polish folktale

The story goes that a litter of kittens got too close to a river’s edge and fell in. The mother cried, unable to save them, and the willows along the river lowered themselves into the water to pull the kittens to safety. The kittens’ fur clung to the ends of the willows and that’s why they grow soft buds of fur every spring. 

Buffalo, New York, is the Dyngus Day capital of the country, where the largest parades and festivals take place, but it is also celebrated in cities like Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. 

At these festivals, amidst flirting with squirt guns and fur-tipped branches, gatherers share Polish food of paczki, kielbasa sausage, pierogies, stuffed cabbage and potato pancakes. People wear red and white for the Polish flag or traditional dresses and robes. They drink “piwo,” which is Polish for beer, and dance all day to polka music.

There is a great presence of Polish communities in Cleveland, Ohio, where Dyngus Day takes over several streets. This year’s schedule features DJ Kishka and a lineup of Polish Polka bands, followed by the coronation of Miss Dyngus and a pierogi eating contest.

Miss Dyngus, the Queen of Dyngus Day, is chosen from a group of women randomly pulled from the crowd. The opportunity for advance consideration asks questions such as how Polish the contestant is, what her favorite polka song is, how skilled she is in making pierogies or what her favorite babushka, or a Polish decorative scarf, looks like.

The chosen queen then makes appearances at festivals, TV morning shows and parades throughout the year. The terms also request Miss Dyngus to agree to “exude the sweetness and cheeriness that only a Dyngus Day Queen can.”

Most people don’t realize the multitude of holidays celebrated in America that have originated from European immigrants. The fireworks of New Year’s Eve come from traditional celebrations of the Chinese New Year, but New Year champagne toasts were brought in by French advertisers in the 1800s. They hoped to connect their signature drink to an American holiday, so once the tradition of New Year’s stuck, champagne sales skyrocketed for French immigrants. 

Similarly, the Easter bunny came from German immigrants who brought with them stories of Oschter Haws, the mythical bunny who laid eggs in the night for well-behaved children. They made nests in hopes of receiving more eggs and the expansion of Easter gifts led to larger nests, and eventually, woven baskets. 

The continuous creation of new traditions celebrates our country’s diversity as a melting pot of history and culture. Embracing these subtle efforts of affection for the sake of a holiday gives us a reason to feel things out loud and share the joys of a neighbor’s history. 

Libby Evans is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Libby know by emailing her at

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