Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Happy Dyngus Day!

Dyngus Day, celebrated on the Monday after Easter, is a northern Indiana tradition, especially in South Bend, which has a large Polish-American population. It's a Christian adaptation of a pre-Christian spring celebration. In Poland, young men would get up early in the morning and pour water on young women they fancied. They would also whip the young women's legs with a switch made of willow. My Hungarian blogging friend SzélsőFa writes that Hungary has a similar tradition, called Húsvét. In her blog she writes, "Water has a central importance in Easter festivities. In the old times, men used to throw water on women. Now Hungarian men and boys sprinkle women and girls with fragrance. In return, they are given decorated eggs and/or chocolate, and more recently, money." (Personally, I like the modern Hungarian adaptation.)

In the United States, Dyngus Day is mostly about drinking beer and eating spicy Polish sausage. But it's also a time for Democratic politicians to gather at the West Side Democratic Club in South Bend. Once upon a time, when the Indiana Democratic primary , held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, mattered, presidential candidates visited the club. The last time that happened was in 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy came to the club on Dyngus Day. RFK won the Indiana primary handily, beating both Eugene McCarthy and Governor Roger D. Branigan, a stand-in for Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

For the first time in forty years, it's "once upon a time" again. The Indiana primary matters. And while neither Democratic candidate will be at the West Side Democratic Club this year, Bill and Chelsea Clinton will. Former Congressman Tim Roemer will represent Senator Barack Obama at the festivities. I wish I could be there.

10 comments:

Tea N. Crumpet said...

Not even related but dealing in water, in the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the priest gets to fling water around after the amazing Pascha Service to bless people and baskets. What is it about flinging water that these cultures have? LOL

steve said...

Tea--That custom must predate the Great Schism of 1054, when the Eastern and Western churches separated, officially over one word added by Rome to the Nicene Creed. You can find the sprinkling of water in Roman Catholic and High Church Episcopal services, on the Sundays of Easter and on Pentecost, or whenever there is a baptism. In the Episcopal rite, the priest says, "Remember your own baptism, and be thankful," as he sprinkles the congregation. I'm one of the few who can remember it, as I was baptized as an adult.

Lisa said...

I'd always heard of Dyngus Day, but never knew what it was.

For whatever it's worth, I think I'm glad none of my early suitors threw water at me or whipped my legs with tree branches!

Thanks for educating me on this. Now I know.

Charles Gramlich said...

This is the first time I've heard the term Dyngus Day. You'd think I'd have known about this beer drinking holiday.

steve said...

Lisa and Charles--It's a custom peculiar to places with a large Polish-Americn population--Chicago, South Bend, and Buffalo celebrate it, along with some other cities in the Great Lakes area.

Lisa--I don't know whether the switching is still done even in Poland. Wikipedia has a long article under "Easter Monday"

Charles--You can't expect to know about every beer-drinking holiday. There are just too many.

SzélsőFa said...

Thanks for mentioning my post, Steve. In a few days' time, i will be covering the theme of decorating Easter eggs, too.

To 'Tea n Crumpet':I think water is important because of the many connotations it has. Life is partly, made of water. Water purifies and washes away things, changes yet remains the same and so on.

Chicka said...

I'm in WNY - home of THE largest Dyngus Day bashes and it was a BLAST.

Happy (day after) Dyngus.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

New one on me this side of the pond...

steve said...

Szelsofa--I'm back in Indiana after a long drive. I'll check out your post soon. Thanks for your comments to Tea about water.

Chicka--Welcome. Glad it was a blast. While the large Polish-American population has a lot to do with celebration both here and in western New York, I wonder whether our both being in the lake-effect snow belt has something to do with the need to celebrate.

Julie--You're missing a large Polish community and lake-effect snow. But I envy those wonderful May Day celebrations in places like Padstow in Cornwall.

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Cheers Steve, and thanks for the observation on mine. Get into that territory, and its one step closer to the Matrix, I guess!