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Wet Monday

Śmigus - dyngus

So we’ve had Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Hellacious Saturday, Resurrection Sunday. Now what about today? “Easter Monday” certainly doesn’t cut it.

How about Wet Monday — also known as Dyngus Day? Sounds like Central and Eastern Europe is the place to be:

Dyngus Day or Wet Monday (Polish Śmigus-Dyngus or lany poniedziałek) is the name for Easter Monday in Poland. In the Czech Republic it is called velikonoční pondělí or pomlázka. In Slovakia veľkonočný pondelok (Easter Monday) is called Šibačka/Polievačka or Oblievačka too. All countries practice a unique custom on this day.

In Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic traditionally, early in the morning boys awake girls by pouring a bucket of water on their head and striking them about the legs with long thin twigs or switches made from willow, birch or decorated tree branches…

That sounds like a hoot. I wish I’d known about this earlier. I could have started my girls’ day off with a bang.

…Dyngus and Śmigus were twin pagan gods; the former representing water and the moist earth (Dyngus from din gus – thin soup or dingen – nature); and the latter representing thunder and lightning (Śmigus from śmigać or to make a whooshing sound)…. The custom of pouring water was an ancient spring rite of cleansing, purification, and fertility. It is alleged that the pagan Poles bickered with nature/Dyngus by means of pouring water and switching with willows to make themselves pure and worthy of the coming year…

Most recently, the tradition has changed to become fully water-focused, and the śmigus part is almost forgotten. It is quite common for girls to attack boys just as fiercely. With much of Poland’s population residing in tall apartment buildings, high balconies are favorite hiding places for young people who gleefully empty buckets of water or more recently throw plastic bags or water balloons onto random passers-by.

Of course here in the U.S. we have our own version. Most notably, folks in Buffalo, New York, apparently have the world’s largest Dyngus Day celebration. But, as a recovering Hoosier with some Czech heritage, I was most intrigued to note it’s also a big deal in parts of Indiana, particularly South Bend and (gulp) Terre Haute.

In scouring the net for more info, I came across a reference to slivovitz. A search on slivovitz dyngus led me straight to my old stomping grounds of Bloomington, Indiana, and Yogi’s Grill and Bar (where we used to screen episodes of ROX. At first I thought Google was maybe privileging Indiana-related links because of my history of interest in the area, but even logged out this story from the IDS comes as the top result. What are the chances?

“Dyngus Day is like St. Patrick’s Day on acid,” manager Chris Karl said.

“Slivovitz is disgusting, it’s gross,” Bloomington resident Mitch Taylor said.

Most party-goers agree with Taylor, but say it’s essential to do a shot of the Serbian liquor on Dyngus Day.

The reason slivovitz got my attention is because it figures in a book I finished — on Easter Sunday. So now that we’ve come full circle, you’ll excuse me. I’ve got work to do and then I’m off to pick up some Cipro and hopefully knock this crud out of my lungs for good.

Thanks to Deke Hager for jogging my dyngus, I mean memory.

Śmigus – dyngus / daniel kowalewski / BY-NC-SA 2.0

Published inHoly Daze

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