Michiana has been celebrating Dyngus Day for as long as I can remember. I’ve often wondered if “Michiana’s Dyngus Day” is like the real Dyngus Day in Poland. I recently asked a gal at church who’s from Poland about Dyngus Day, and she told me there are a number of rituals in Poland on Dyngus Day. She informed me this celebration dates back to pagan times, but it is celebrated much differently in Poland than in Michiana.
The one thing that really struck me was the use of pussy willow branches in Poland’s rituals.
Pussy willows are used instead of Palm leaves for Palm Sunday because palm leaves are not available in Poland. The pussy willows were blessed by priests and then used to strike each other (I assume in love!) in celebration of Easter Sunday coming in 6 nights. The pussy willows were then treated as sacred believing to promote good health and fortune, prevent lightning strikes, protect animals and help with honey production.
The pussy willow is also used in Poland as a courting tool. It appears that the boys would sneak into a girl’s house and throw water on the girls. They would then use the pussy willow to strike the girl they were interested in. Many times, the girls would also be taken in groups to a nearby river or pond for another drenching. The more attractive girls can expect multiple water “attacks” throughout the day. The use of the water is said to bring on the spring rains for harvest. In theory girls are supposed to wait until the next day to seek revenge on the boys. But in modern day, the girls do not wait until Tuesday!
Dyngus Day is not celebrated in many communities across America. Many Americans have no idea what a Dyngas Day celebration is like. Bigger polish communities like Buffalo, NY and Michiana, IN (including South Bend, Elkhart and LaPorte, IN) celebrate with polish food and music. And many politicians use this day as a campaigning day in Michiana.
Happy Dyngus and please leave the water and pussy willows at home!