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.