Celebrating Dyngus Day in Buffalo New York

Red and Whitel Balloons Buffalo Dyngus Day Parade

For those unfamiliar with the holiday, Dyngus Day is a Polish celebration on the day after Easter Sunday, with festivities commemorating the symbolic renewal of life and the end of the Lenten season (a period of prayer and fasting). One of the biggest observances takes place in Buffalo, NY and is advertised as being the largest festival of its kind in the world. Both residents and visitors enjoy a week of traditional customs, Polish foods, dancing, and a parade at the annual event, which was started in 1961 by the Chopin Singing Society.

Dyngus Day or “Wet Monday” has its roots in pre-Christian and Christian rituals, with the use of water during the festival as a symbol of baptism and fertility. Catholic holy water was used to bless people, food, and dwellings, and the sprinkling of water evolved into practical jokes, with festival-goers pouring water on each other. Early Polish customs also had young men splashing young women with water to show interest in courtship, and continues today with both sides’ mutual participation. Another Dyngus Day tradition is the use of pussy willows, symbolic of ancient self-purification rituals and the blossoming of romance. During the festival, when a recipient is tapped with the branch, he or she has attracted the attention of a nearby admirer.

The weeklong revelries take place in the historic Polonia District of Buffalo, and many visitors enjoy sampling the food and music. Traditional Polish Easter food includes breads, ham, and Easter eggs, and a selection of taverns and restaurants offer hearty favorites such as pierogis (dumplings stuffed with cheese, mushroom, or sauerkraut), polish sausage, kotlet schabowy (chicken cutlet), and golubki (cabbage stuffed with rice and meat). For dessert, an assortment of pastries is available to satisfy every sweet tooth, including jelly-filled paczki donuts. For music-lovers, Dyngus Day has a variety of entertainment, and opportunities for polka dancing to the sounds of well-known bands, such as Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push.

The local taverns are a good place for adults to enjoy fine Polish beer or vodka, a drink that has its origins in Poland. To encourage a safe environment, the festival also has a “designated Dyngus drivers” program, which provides taxi, limousine, and shuttle services for those who have imbibed. In addition, there are several hotels offering special rates for visitors who prefer a good night’s sleep before the trip home. Two hotels in the area are the Holiday Inn Buffalo, located conveniently in downtown Buffalo, NY, and the Holiday Inn Buffalo Airport, in Cheektowaga, NY.

On Dyngus Day, visitors have the chance to experience Polish culture in a fun-filled, friendly atmosphere. The city of Buffalo provides an opportunity to participate in a unique celebration of the Easter season.