Buffalo is the self-proclaimed capital of Dyngus Day. This post-Easter, post-lenten tradition is a favorite for many Western New Yorkers, but here are five things you might not know about this holiday.
1. Although associated with Easter, the tradition has pagan roots.
As with some Christmas traditions, it appears the things we traditionally associate with Easter Monday likely started before the arrival of Christianity and later took on a Christian meaning. Slavic peoples used water as an ancient rite of cleansing, purification, and fertility around the March equinox. That’s also true of switching with pussy willow branches. When Christianity arrived, these traditions were likely absorbed and given different religious meanings. Today, Dyngus Day is most widely associated with the baptism of Poland’s Prince Mieszko I. He had his court baptized on Easter Monday and would become the country’s first Catholic king. The water, therefore, was no longer tied to pagan rituals of fertility, but rather the Prince’s baptism.
2. Pussywillows were used because palms were not readily available in Poland and Central Europe
Palm Sunday is great, but the thing about palms is, well, you have to have palm trees. Think about it… if you’ve ever had the chance to visit Poland, have you ever seen a palm tree there? Tie that with the inhereited pre-Christian use of pussywillows and you’ve got an acceptable stand-in. Pussywillows are one of the first budding pants of the spring and were seen as a symbol of life and rejuvenation in some cultures.
3. No, Dyngus Day is not widely celebrated in Poland
Of course Dyngus Day has become a point of Buffalo pride, and many outside Buffalo would be surprised to find that not many Americans have even heard of the holiday. But would you be surprised to hear that the holiday is not widely celebrated in Poland, either? According to Dyngus Day Buffalo, that is indeed the case. The holiday has been growing in America, however. Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and South Bend, Indiana are all home to Dyngus Day celebrations this year.
4. The tradition really took off in Buffalo in the 60’s
Of course Dyngus Day has always been in the Polish tradition, but the holiday didn’t really become an Buffalo cultural icon until the 1960’s. The push was made by Polish-American leaders to help the community find a new focus for its identity. Now on Easter Monday, everybody is Polish! Buffalo has the biggest and longest-running celebration in the country.
5. A shortage of Krupnik threatens this years celebrations
As the Buffalo News reported, “Dyngus Day 2016 may go down in history as the year of the great krupnik crisis.” Krupnik is a sweet, Polish-made honey liquor thats often drank in celebration on Dyngus Day. It’s unclear if a shortage of honey or bottle or a production plant’s move in Warsaw has caused the shortage. Happy Swallow Tavern told the News they only have six bottles this year! So get out there early if you want to partake in this tradition.